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Introductory Sketch iii 

Beowulf 1 

Notes 87 

The Fight at Finnesburh SO 

Copyright, 1fl04, 

All rights reserved. 

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The First Page of Beowulf Folio 128* of MS. Cott. ViteUius A. XV 
in the British Museum ; transliterated in part, p. xxii. 


When Henry VIII, at Cromwell's suggestion, sup- 
pressed in 1536 the smaller monasteries, and in 1539 
and 1540, those which were larger and richer, the 
king and his unscrupulous vicar-general no doubt 
profited greatly, but literature suffered an irreparable 
loss. The rich stores of these treasure-houses of ancient 
learning were in great part scattered and lost, and 
there were few to heed or care. As at thought of the 
lost plays of Shakespeare, regret is awakened, the 
greater because unavailing, when such testimony is con- 
sidered as that of Bishop John Bale in his preface to 
Leland's "New Year's Gift to Henry VIII," in 1549. 
Though an ardent reformer and approving the suppres- 
sion of the monasteries, Bishop Bale cannot repress his 
sorrow and indignation. He writes as follows : - — 

Never had we been offended for the loss of our libraries, being 
so many in number and in so desolate places for the more part, 
if the chief monuments and most notable works of our excellent 
writers had been reserved. If there had been in every shire of 
England but one solemn library to the preservation of those no- 
ble works and preferment of good learnings in our posterity, it 
had been yet somewhat. But, to destroy all without considera- 
tion, a great number of them which purchased those supersti- 
tious mansions reserved of those library books . . . some to 
scour their candlesticks, and some to rub their boots. Some 
they sold to the grocers and soap-sellers, and some over sea to 
the bookbinders, not in small number, but at times whole ships 
full, to the wondering of the foreign nations. Yea, the universi- 
ties of this realm are not all clear in this detestable fact. But 
cursed is . . . [he] which seek&th to be fed with such ungodly 


gains and so deeply shameth his natural country. I know a mer- 
chant man, which shall at this time he nameless, that bought the 
contents of two noble libraries for forty shillings' price, a shame 
it is to be spoken. This stuff hath he occupied in the stead of 
gray paper by the space of more than these ten years, and yet 
he hath store enough for as many years to come. I judge this to 
be true, and utter it with heaviness, that neither the Britains 
jnder the Romans and Saxons, nor yet the English people under 
the Danes and Normans, had ever such damage of their learned 
monuments as we have seen in our time. 

Not all, fortunately, were lost. John Leland, the 
King's Antiquary, saved as many manuscripts as his 
opportunities and means permitted, and Dr. Matthew 
Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury, and, later, Sir 
Robert Cotton, were zealous collectors. But Bale's 
account finds illustration in the fact that two Old 
English epics, the " Fight at Finnesburh " and the 
" Waldere," are known to us only through fragments, 
accidentally preserved upon parts of bindings or cov- 
ers of other works. 

The manuscript of " Beowulf," one of those col- 
lected by Sir Robert Cotton, is now enshrined in the 
British Museum under the caption " Ms. Cott. Vitellius 
A. 15." The Cotton manuscripts were catalogued 
under the names of the Roman emperors whose busts 
, stood over the cases which held them, the " Beowulf " 
being one of those beneath the bust of Vitellius. This 
casual association of names surely affords one of those 

nice antitheses of perfect poise, 
Chance in his curious rhetoric employs, 

juggesting, as it does, a contrast between the great- 
iouled hero and wise king of the Geats and the maudlin 
emperor, sunk in self-indulgence, whose throne was 
established by murder, even though Tacitus could say 


of his earlier record that " in his provincial administra- 
tion he displayed the virtues of a former age." 

Great indeed would have been our loss, if the most 
precious monument of Teutonic antiquity, the only 
remaining folk-epic of the Germanic peoples, had per- 
ished in doing menial service to grocer or soap-seller, 
or been cut to strips by the book-binder. It was to run 
a further risk. More than a hundred of the Cotton 
manuscripts were destroyed or lost, and ninety-eight, 
among them the " Beowulf," injured, by the fire in 
1731 in Little Dean's Yard, Westminster, where they 
were housed. The edges of the " Beowulf " were 
charred, but, fortunately, parchment resists flame to a 
remarkable degree, as appeared also recently in the de- 
plorable disaster to the library at Turin. The charred 
edges, however, crumbled easily, and many words and 
letters have disappeared between 1786, when Thorkelin 
used the manuscript, and the present time. The manu- 
script was not carefully bound and safeguarded for- 
merly, as it is now. 

The full story is not yet told of the haps and chances 
that might have cost us our knowledge of the poem, 
our enjoyment of the inspiriting story it tells, the pic- 
ture it gives us of the life of our remote ancestors. It 
might have been lost to us at the very beginning for 
the following reason. The manuscript is of the tenth 
century, but the original poems from which the poem 
was made were much earlier. Our Teutonic forefa- 
thers who invaded England in the fifth century had a 
literature, but it was not written down ; it was handed 
down by memory from one person to another. When 
in time these Teutonic invaders became Christian, they 
learned to know written literature, but, naturally, 
those who could write composed religious works ; for 


example, the poems on Bible stories long attributed 
to Csednion, and those on sacred legends by the first 
great English poet whose name we know and whose 
works we possess, Cynewnlf . The greater part of Old 
English poetry is religions, but in time men were 
found to put in writing poems not religious, such as 
the " Widsith " and " Deor," which seem earlier than 
, the coining to England. And some monk, perhaps 
x several working one after another, thought it worth 
while to make a single complete poem from certain 
popular lays about the hero Beowulf, and to commit ■ 
it to writing. But if no one had thought to do this, 
we should never have heard of Beowulf at all. 

To understand how the original poems arose from 
which the " Beowulf " was composed as we know it, 
we must go back to the earlier, unwritten literature. 1 
The Teutons were fond of poetry, as Tacitus tells us. 
They made songs celebrating noteworthy events, and 
these were remembered and repeated for a longer or 
shorter time. If the poem was about a truly great 
hero or happening, and was worth perpetuating, it was 
handed down from one person to another, becoming a 
permanent part of the tribal or national or racial lit— 

1 The reader may be referred for extended study of Beowulf 
to the editions by Heyne-Socin, Wyatt, and Holder ; to Ten 
Brink's English Literature, Stopford Brooke's Early English 
Literature, Arnold's Notes on Beowulf, Morley's English Writers 
(an encyclopaedic work to be used with caution), Kogel's 
Geschichte der deutschen Literatur, Earle's Deeds of Beowulf, 
Clark Hall's Beowulf, and above all, for stimulating stud)', to 
Ker's Epic and Romance. Many statements and views in one or 
another of these works represent individual opinion or are now 
set aside, but all are helpful. Among translations, the reader 
may examine those of Morris and Wyatt, Earle, Garnett, Clark 
Hall, John Lesslie Hall, and Tinker ; also Tinker's monograph 
on the translation of Beowulf. 


erature. It is especially important to note that poems 
preserved by this process of tradition would not re- 
main unchanged. Successive poets bettered them, 
either as regards poetic form or by improving the 
detail of the story to render it more striking or in- 
teresting. While the art of poetry seems to have been 
very generally cultivated, there were, moreover, profes- 
sional poets (called in Old English scop or gleoman), 
who either went from place to place or had positions 
at the courts of chieftains or kings, and whose living 
and well-being depended on their poetic gift. 1 They 
would inevitably bend their efforts to bettering the 
songs they sang. Moreover, as these songs formed the 
record of the ancestry of kings and peoples, and of 
the deeds they had performed in the past, — served 
as history, in brief, — there was a natural tendency 
to enlarge and magnify the deeds and events com- 
memorated. As these receded into the past, a hero 
soon came to be pictured as greater and stronger, his 
deeds as more wonderful, a battle or war as fiercer 
or longer, than they had actually been. Supernatural 
attributes, even, might be added to a hero. Stories of 
different heroes might after a time be run together, 
or even stories of a hero and of a god, as seems to 
have been the case with Beowulf. Thus, as will be 
seen, these early poems were based upon historic fact, 
the historic element, however, being usually overlaid 
or entirely obscured by poetic or mythical additions. 

It is possible to discover a basis of historic fact in 
our Old English epic. Beowulf is held to have been a 
real person. While not known himself in history, he 

1 It is a striking fact that two of the oldest poems in English, 
the Widsith (parts of which are the oldest English poetry ex- 
tant) and Deor, have to do with these two classes of poets. 


is represented as a retainer and kinsman of Hygelac, 
king of the Geats, who was killed during a foray 
into Frisian territory in a battle against a combined 
army of Frisians, Hugs, and Franks. Hygelac is ar 
historic character. Under the latinized name Choci- 
laicus or Chocilagus, he appears, and his foray is de- 
scribed, in the " Historia Francorum " of Gregory of 
Tours and in the " Gesta Eegum Francorum." Fur- 
ther, in a manuscript of Phsedrus at Wolfenbiittel of 
the tenth century, it is recorded that the bones of a King 
Hunglacus, a Geat, had been discovered on an island 
in the mouth of the Rhine, and that they were then 
being exhibited to people " coming from a distance" 
to view them because of their huge size. Hygelac being 
thus proved historic, it is held, on the authority of 
the references in the poem (see 11. 1202 ff., 2354 ff., 
2501 ff., and 2914 ff.), that Beowulf also was historic, 
took part in the foray, and may, after Hygelac's 
defeat, have actually escaped, as the poem relates, 
through his skill in swimming. He may also have 
become king and ruled wisely and well. Because of 
his bravery and prowess and his qualities of mind 
and heart, he was celebrated in song, and the epic 
lays about him were handed down through successive 
generations with the usual enhancement of the hero's 
traits and deeds characteristic of the process of tradi- 

The historical element counts, however, for very 
little in the poem. Another element is of chief im- 
portance, the legendary or mythical. Myths, as we 
have seen, frequently formed a feature of Teutonic 
epic, and in the case of Beowulf it is supposed that 
stories concerning a god, Beowa, and his exploits in 
slaying certain monsters, were confused and blended 


with those of the hero, and heoame indeed more im- 
portant than those hased on historic fact, because of 
their more interesting character. As a result of this, 
while Beowulf remains a man in the poem, he becomes 
endowed with supernatural strength and daring, and 
performs such feats as his swimming-match with 
Breca, his making off with thirty suits of armor 
after Hygelac's defeat, his swimming down a whole 
day through the water to the monster's lair. The 
original character of the myths merged in the poem 
has been the subject of much study, and various 
explanations have been offered. One view formerly 
and still very generally accepted is that Grendel and 
his mother and the dragon originally represented 
hostile forces of nature, — such as darkness, winter, 
the power of the sea, or the pestilential miasma of 
the fens, — and that the victories achieved over them 
typified their subdual by the sun, summer, or wind, 
deified as Beowa. Such myths, according to this 
view, had been reduced to mere stories of super- 
natural beings, retaining no trace of their original 
meaning. Many of the specific interpretations offered 
are far-fetched and some even ludicrous. 1 It is prob- 
able, however, that the general contention is sound, 
and it is perhaps safe to assume, without going farther, 
that a god Beowa, whose existence in myth is certain, 
became confused or blended with Beowulf. The pre- 
sent tendency seems to be to discredit such nature- 
myths, and to seek the origin of exploits like those of 

1 A convenient reference for the reader is Morley's English 
Writers, i. 343 ff. Morley well says, "Enough of wind and 
mist. One more of these ingenious turns of the mythologic 
screw might convert Beowulf into the myth of a mining engi- 
neer, if not of a drainpipe." 


Beowulf in fights with wild beasts. Mr. Skeat many 
years ago argued that the fight with Grendel was 
originally a fight with a bear, and the dragon of Teu- 
tonic myth, guarding his hoard in a mound, might 
readily have originated in a beast harboring in a bur- 
ial-barrow, in which treasure had been placed. The 
study of the myths in Beowulf, it may be added, 
while of great interest and value, contributes little or 
nothing toward increased appreciation of the interest 
and beauty of the poem. 

Beside the main story, the poem includes a number 
of incidental references to other stories or sagas, and 
in several cases such stories are told briefly as episodes 
linked, by way of comment or illustration, to events in 
the main story. In the " Beowulf," for example, occurs 
the earliest version on record of the famous encounter 
of Siegfried with the dragon, here ascribed to his 
father, Sigemund. Other examples are the story of 
Finn, of Heremod, and of Thrytho. 

The date of the composition of the songs or lays 
about Beowulf, on which the poem is based, is natu- 
rally difficult to determine, but an approximate date 
can at least be given. Hygelac's raid took place about 
512. Allowing time for Beowulf's reign of fifty years 
and for the songs about him and the mythic additions 
to become merged, we may suppose the poems to have 
taken something like their final form in the seventh 
century. Further, a reference to the Merovingian 
dynasty in France (1. 2921), as Mr. Arnold pointed out, 
indicates that the epic was composed before the fall 
of that dynasty in 752. 

The place of composition offers a very difficult and 
perplexing question. It is important to remember that 
the hero is not English, nor the scene in England. In the 


poem, Beowulf is a Geat and his home is in Geatland, 
which in the somewhat dubious geography of the poem 
assumed by scholars is placed north of the part of 
Hrothgar's kingdom called Scedelands, or Scedenig, 
in the extreme southern portion of the Scandinavian 
peninsula, while Hrothgar's hall, the royal seat of the 
Danes, where the hero slays Grendel, is placed on the 
island of Zealand, between Sweden and Denmark. At 
first sight it would seem as if the stories must have 
been originally Scandinavian, and must have found 
their way to the Low German tribes and then have 
been brought to England during the eighth or ninth 
century, or perhaps that they reached England during 
these centuries through the Scandinavians themselves, 
the so-called " Danes," during their frequent invasions. 
But definitely satisfactory evidence of a Scandinavian 
origin is lacking. However — for the matter is too 
complex to be entered into here — there are two chief 
possibilities. One is that the stories were of Scan- 
dinavian origin, were carried to England by Scandi- 
navians, and were there made over into the Old Eng- 
lish poem. The other, a view held by some scholars 
who set aside the assumed position of Geatland in Scan- 
dinavia, is that the Geats of the poem were not Scandi- 
navian, but a Low German tribe, related to the Angles. 
This would render it possible that the stories were a 
racial possession of the Low German settlers, while if 
they were Scandinavian, the Low Germans would not 
have taken interest in their hero or his exploits. No 
difficulty, it may be remarked, is offered by this con- 
sideration in supposing them transferred to England at 
a late date by Scandinavians, for old racial differences 
would then have been forgotten and the stories would 
have been accepted on their own merits. 


One further possibility may be mentioned which is 
independent of the main question just discussed, and 
that is that the assumed confusion of Beowulf and 
Beowa may have taken place in England. The god 
Beowa appears in English genealogies, and the names 
of Beowa and Grendel appear in place-names, and 
moreover in parts of England not settled by the 

Whatever may be the answers to these questions, 
it seems certain that various poems forming a cycle 
treating of Beowulf's life and exploits were known 
and used by one or more monkish poets to frame an 
English poem, composed, as certain special evidence 
indicates, in the Mercian or midland part of England. 
These poems were originally heathen, and to this is 
due the mingling of heathen with Christian elements, 
— the heathen conception of Wyrd, or destiny per- 
sonified, appearing, for example, beside the Christian 
conception of a guiding and controlling Providence. 
Some believe that this is referable simply to an only 
partial making over of the heathen originals, others 
that the poet was newly converted to Christianity and 
that his ideas were therefore a blend of heathen and 

Turning now to the poem, we may ask, What will 
be our experience in reading it? It is an epic, that is, 
a narrative poem of elevated character, and we may 
expect to find that special methods will be used to en- 
force and sustain the dignity of its theme, as in other 
epics. The story itself is clear and simple, as well as 
fine, and we must permit the poet his proper means 
of giving it substance and relation. References to 
persons and events we know nothing about must not 
trouble us, or the stories briefly outlined which are 


introduced as episodes. These may seem tronblesomely 
obscure, as in a sense they sometimes are, but we must 
remember that they concern people and events famil- 
iar to those who listened to the poem, and, as we read, 
we must simply let them shape for us a background 
of dim, looming figures and fierce feuds and battles, 
which may serve to give distinctness and atmosphere 
to the personages and happenings of the main story. 
Again, we must not think it wrong that Beowulf or 
Hrothgar or the poet himself should discourse at some 
length, when there is something to be done of which 
we wish to hear. Not only are these passages intrin- 
sically fine, but in all epics the introduction of epi- 
sodes, of speeches, or of the poet's ov/n comment, is 
necessary to elevate and diversify the narrative, to 
make clear or to emphasize the character of the person- 
ages, or to enforce the importance of the events they 
take part in. These elements appear in the Homeric 
poems precisely in the same way as in " Beowulf." 

It is sometimes said that the poem is clearer and 
simpler in the original than in translation.. This is 
partly true. A person reading the original has usu- 
ally some knowledge of the conditions of life repre- 
sented. Further, the translations chiefly used are in 
a modern imitation of the Old English verse-form, and 
are therefore marred by awkward turns of expression. 
Also, most prose translations as well as the verse 
translations make use of unfamiliar words, especially 
archaic terms, and of turns of phrase not modern 
in idiom, through too close a rendering of the Old 
English. But these stumbling-blocks maybe avoided; 
there is no reason why a translation should not be 

It is helpful to know something of the conditions of 


Old English life. A king or chieftain lives in a hall 
in a " city " or fortified place, or perhaps in a home- 
stead enclosed with its various buildings by a wall. 
The king has his band of earls or warriors about him, 
with perhaps youth at service from other courts. His 
court includes a herald, a spokesman, and a poet or 
poets. The older men are his councillors. His war- 
riors are related to him by tribal descent ; they are 
his kinsman-thanes or retainers, bound to do him ser- 
vice to the death, his " close comrades," " companions 
of his table " or " hearth." He provides them with 
subsistence, with ale, mead, or wine at the feast, and 
at the " beer-drinking " the harp is passed about, and 
songs are sung by those having skill, or by the pro- 
fessional poet. The king or chieftain sits on his " high 
seat," his retainers on benches or settles beside tables 
along a dais at the sides, while on the earthen floor in 
the middle of the hall the fires blaze, the smoke go- 
ing through openings in the roof. The queen or the 
king's daughter passes the cup ceremonially about the 
hall to the warriors, thus showing them honor and 
ensuring their devoted allegiance. As after a fight the 
spoils are brought to the king and are at his disposal 
(though regarded in some sense as a folk-possession), so 
is he expected to be generous in the hall in giving out 
treasure (hence, the hall is sometimes called the " ring- 
hall " or " treasure-hall," and he the "giver of rings "). 
His gifts may consist of gold in rings, plates, or 
brooches or other jewels, as collars or armlets, or of 
swords, burnies (coats of mail of interlocked rings, 
very precious as costing the smith months of work), 
helmets, banners, or horses. After the feasting, the 
king and honored guests go to special sleeping-places : 
the warriors spread pallets and pillows and stretch 


themselves on the mead-benches or floor. The hall is 
sometimes adorned with hangings. It lias a steep roof 
with broad gables, and the main pillar at each end is 
carried above the gable-peak, and carved and deco- 
rated. Hrothgar's hall " Heorot " (" hart " or " stag") 
probably bore antlers. Spoils of the chase decked it 
without, and we are told that it had a golden rocf 
which shone. 1 

War is the chief business of life, and includes the 
waging of feuds, public or private, the repelling of in- 
vaders, and forays for spoils. Courage is the virtue 
chiefly prized in an earl, either in service at his lord's 
side, or in doing special exploits and achieving " earl- 
ship," that is, proving himself a true earl. Beside 
courage, generosity and magnanimity, unselfishness, 
and, in kings and chieftains, justice in rule and a gra- 
cious openness and courtesy to inferiors, are qualities 
exalted and remembered after a man dies. These qual- 
ities and their opposites are often referred to in Old 
English verse to convey praise or dispraise. Kings, 
warriors, and people are referred to as " valiant," 
" bold in war," "high-spirited ; " a king is " the friendly 
lord," " lord of men," " ruler over friends," " helmet 
of his people," " safeguard of warriors," and the like. 

1 The Icelandic sagas refer to gold or gilded roofs, and the 
reader may recall that in the fairy-tale (of great antiquity) of 
the man who has the mill that will grind what he wishes, after 
building his house, he has the mill grind gold plates to cover it. 
The gold of these roofs may conceivably have been sheet-metal, 
though in some cases at least the earth was carried up over the 
roofs of the Icelandic hall. The whitewash used on Celtic 
stockaded houses, which would shine yellow ill the sun, may also 
be suggested, and I am informed that old Irish tales use both 
gold and silver in reference to hair as shining or beautiful, irre- 
spective of its actual color. 


Such phrases, used partly to give variety and save 
repeating a name, partly to aid in the verse, are a 
marked feature of Old English poetry. Poetical 
synonyms also, usually compounds, implying what a 
phrase only would fully express, are often used fo' - 
ideas or things frequently named. Such are "ringed 
prow " for a ship, " whales' road " or " gannet's bath " 
for the sea," " shield-bearer " for warrior. 1 Many of 
these are best rendered in translation by phrases ; 
some, indeed, can only be thus rendered, as, for ex- 
ample, " terror descending unforeseen," " demon of 
the world aloof," or " coiler into rings," used of the 

Frequent use of archaic terms is not at all necessary, 
and is specially to be condemned when they are drawn 
from various periods of English and suggest ideas and 
social conditions at variance with the rjph'it and the 
period of the poem. There is absolutely no excuse 
for that artificial form of diction made up of true 
archaic terms, refashionings of words actually obso- 
lete, and un-English turns of expression simulating 
the archaic, which is known as " Wardour Street Eng- 
lish." A few archaic forms and refashionings are, 
however, helpful and desirable. Those used in the 

1 Others for the ship are " wood " or " sea-wood," " hound 
prow," "keel;" for the harp, "pleasure-wood," "glee-wood;" 
the spear, " slaughter-shaft ; " the sword, " battle-friend,". 
" ringed-iron ; " the burnie or coat of mail, " battle-sark " or shirt, 
" battle-mesh," "battle-garment ;" the visor of a helmet, " bat- 
tle-mask ; " armor, "trappings," "war-gear," "war-weeds" 
(compare modern " widow's weeds ") ; war, " the battle-play ; " 
the body (the metaphors here as in some of the others are 
faded), " bone-house," " flesh-clothing." Characteristic locutions 
of this sort have been retained wherever there seemed to be no 
danger of their causing the reader difficulty. 


translation are so few and simple that they are ap- 
pended here in a note. 1 

The poem may be read simply for itself as a moving 
tale of heroic virtue and stirring adventure, or further, 
— still from an absolute point of view, — as an epic 
in the world's literature which may be brought into 
comparison with the Homeric or other heroic poems. 
But the pleasure it affords will be greatly deepened 
and enriched, if it is also considered ID historic rela- 
tion to its time as a picture of the heroic age of our 
ancestors, the life they led, the hopes and desires that 
swayed them, their way of thinking of things. If 
the poem is thus considered, one will arrive also at a 
higher and juster estimate of its artistic value than is 
possible from the absolute point of view. Mr. W. P. 
Ker, in his " Epic and Romance," a work the value 
and delightfulness of which it is impossible to rate 
too highly, in judging the poem as he does chiefly from 
the absolute point of view, misses perhaps its chief 
aim. While recognizing its admirable qualities, 2 he 

1 Atheling, also earl, a warrior of noblo descent; hale, harmful 
evil; bill, a sword; burnie, a coat of mail; drake, also vwrm, a 
dragon (the use of worm is certainly specific and does not mean 
merely "serpent"); eoten, giant; fiend, properly foe, when used 
of Grendel; gledes, embers or flying fire (used by Longfellow); 
gleeman, used as a more familiar word both for gleoman and 
scop ; Mght, called; ness, a cape, headland, cliff (still in use as 
ness and naze); nicker (O. E. nicor), a sea-monster suggesting the 
walrus, but supernatural, much as Grendel and his mother are 
part natural, part demonic ; sark, the shirt or coat of mail ; scather, 
one who works scathe or harm, a spoiler; thane, a follower, re- 

2 Though, he says, nothing except the killing of dragons is 
more common than the killing of monsters like Grendel, and 
though it is difficult to give epic dignity to such commonplaces, 
this is, nevertheless, accomplished. Beowulf has the compre- 


criticises it, and rightly, as not possessing unity of 
plot or action, the dragon story being a disconnected 
addition to the main narrative. " It is," he says, " im- 
possible to reduce the poem of ' Beowulf ' to the scale 
of Aristotle's Odyssey without revealing the faults of 
structure in the English ]}oem : — 

"A man iii want of work goes abroad to the house of a certain 
king troubled by Harpies, and having accomplished the purifi- 
cation of the house returns home with honour. Long afterwards, 
having become king in his own country, he kills a dragon, but 
is at the same time choked by the venom of it. His people 
lament for Lim and build his tomb. 

" Aristotle made a summary of the Homeric poem, 
because he wished to show how simple its construction 
really was, apart from the episodes. It is impossible, 
by any process of reduction and simplification, to get 
rid of the duality in 'Beowulf.' " But it should be noted 
that unity of action of this sort was not the aim of the 
Anglo-Saxon poet or poets who framed the poem. The 
unity aimed at was the presentation of the life of the 
hero as a whole. When this is perceived, an artistic 
propriety and skill of arrangement is discovered, sur- 

hensive power, the inclusion of various aspects, the faculty of 
changing the mood of a ston', characteristic of the true epic. Also, 
"it keeps its hold on what went before and what is to come. Its 
construction is solid, not flat. It is exposed to the attractions of 
all kinds of subordinate and partial literature,' — the fairy story, 
the conventional romance, the pathetic legend, — and it escapes 
them all by taking them all up as moments, as episodes and 
points of view, governed by the conception, or the comprehen- 
sion, of some of the possibilities of human character in a certain 
form of society. It does not impose any one view on the reader; 
it gives what it is the proper task of the higher kind of fiction 
to give, the play of life in different moods and under different 


prising when the period of the poem is taken into 
account. A description of his famous ancestry intro- 
duces us to Hrothgar, and we learn how lie built his 
lordly hall, Heorot, and then of the enduring grief 
and affliction caused by Grendel's visitations. The 
hero of the poem appeal's, now that all is made ready, 
and we hear of his youth and prowess and matchless 
qualities in the episode of the contest with Breca, in- 
troduced with great dramatic skill through the taunt' 
ing questions of the jealous llunferth. Beowulf kills 
the monsters, and sails away. We learn incidentally 
of Hygelac's death, of Beowulf's refusal of the throne, 
and of his guardianship of Heardred, till Heardred 
dies and Beowulf becomes king. The final episode 
gives the crowning act of his life, — his noble death 
in defence of his people. When the poem is viewed 
in this way, it is evident that though the action may 
be dual, the poet's aim afforded it a true unity. His 
design was to portray the character of a hero, brave, 
generous, magnanimous, considerate in word and deed, 
setting forth his life from youth to death and holding 
him up as an ideal warrior and king for admiration 
and emulation. 

It has been said that the poem is somewhat uneven 
in poetic quality, and this would naturally be so, con- 
sidering the method of its composition from separate 
lays. But on the whole its composition has been done 
with skill. The interpolation of passages Christian in 
character does not injure it, and they are, moreover, 
themselves poetry of no mean order. As regards 
passages of special merit, it is hardly necessary to 
point the reader to the story of the killing of Gren- 
del's mother. While, as Mr. Ker says, the fight with 
Grendel, grim and unrelieved, has within it the ele» 


ments of mortal terror, that with Grendel's mother 
touches on other motives : " The terror is further away 
from human habitations, and it is accompanied with a 
charm and a beauty, the beauty of the Gorgon, such as 
is absent from the first adventure." Nor is it necessary 
to point the reader to the description of the mere in 
which the monster lives as a passage that stands out 
in our early literature in the quality of its romantic 

It is not possible to dwell upon the minor resources 
of the poet's art, — ■ for example, his use of vivid, preg- 
nant words and the variety and skilful interchange of 
his descriptive phrases. No one, it may be added, who 
has studied " Beowulf " with care, will be able to think 
of the poem as primitive or unpolished, or to consider 
it fashioned by a crude poetic impulse and not with 
a conscious aim to satisfy a definite artistic ideal. 

In regard to the question of the use of metre in 
translation as compared with prose, the opinion must 
frankly be expressed that there is no choice between 
prose and the Old English verse. Blank verse, which 
has had at least one advocate to push its claims with 
conviction, Mr. Prosser Frye, cannot in the hands of 
the average translator be anything else than an imi- 
tation of the Elizabethan, Miltonic, or Tennysonian 
blank verse, or a mingling of them in streaks and 
spots like a marbled end-paper. The hexameter and 
the alexandrine, and blank verse also, are wholly out 
of keeping because of their associations and sugges- 
tions. It is of course impossible to say what a true 
poet-translator might do with these magnificent instru- 
ments even in translating Old English verse — as wit- 
ness, to draw a remote parallel, the recent astonishing 
rendering of the " Odyssey " into ruhaiyat, which con* 


founds the amazed reader by its felicity. But a true 
poet might as well, in fact far better, use the 01c 
English verse-form ; it has its own magnificent possi- 
bilities. He who essays the " Beowulf " in this metre, 
be he proser or poet, must certainly expect to give no 
short period of time to a task so arduous, if he is to 
achieve anything like success. To say this is to cast 
no discredit upon the conscientious attempts that have 
hitherto been made, though it is to be regretted that 
the only translation with which the name of a poet of 
note is associated, that by William Morris and Mr. 
Wyatt, is disfigured and rendered obscure by the use 
of pseudo-archaisms which are almost equally objec- 
tionable when viewed from either a philologic or a 
literary standpoint. 

For the benefit of the reader who is unfamiliar witt 
Old English, the opening passage of the poem is given, 
corresponding to the page of the manuscript repro- 
duced as frontispiece, and a rendering (which makes 
no pretence to inspiration) is attempted in the Old 
English verse-form, in the hope of giving some sug- 
gestion of its movement. 1 

1 The Old English verse is made up of two half lines sepa- 
rated by a caesura, linked by alliteration, marking the chiel 
stresses, the normal line having either one or two words 01 
syllables in the first half line alliterating with each other and 
with a single word or syllable in the second half line. All vowels 
may alliterate with one another. 

In reading the Old English (and this note applies also to the 
names in the translation), pronounce the vowels in general as 
in Latin, except tliatce is pronounced like a in man, and the y ap- 
proximately like French u. The letter J> represents the sound 
now spelled th. Cg, as in Ecgtheow, should be pronounced dj\ 
and sc, as in JEschere, like our sh. 

The " Hwffit 1 " at the opening of the poem is an exclamation 
calling for silence from the hearers. 


Hwset ! we Gar-Dena in gear-dagum 

peod-cyninga frjm gefriinoii, 

liu J)a aj];elingas ellen fremedon. 

Oft Scyld Scefing sceapena preatum, 

monegum miegpum, meodo-setla ofteah. 

Egsode earl, syppan Srest wear)) 

fea-sceaft fundeii; he ]>a?s frofre gebad, 

weox under woloiillm, weorp-myndum pah, 

op post him ieghwylc para ymb-sittendra 

ofer hrou-rilde hyran scolde, 

gomban gyldan. ]Ja3t woes god eyning ! 

Lo! Of the Spear-Danes in days long sped, 

Of the lords of that folk, have we learned the glory, 

Plow deeds of daring were done by their athelings. 

Oft Scyld Scefing from seathers thronging, 

From many a people, their mead-seats reft. 

Fear befell of the earl, after first, for their finding, 

He came all helpless. Requital he knew for it, 

Waxed 'neath the welkin, in worship throve, 

Till each and every earl that dwelt nigh him, 

Over the whale-path, must hearken his word, 

And tribute pay him. He was truly a good king ! 

It must not be supposed, because the hero and the 
scene of the poem are not English, that it is in any 
sense not an English poem. In the social conditions it 
depicted, the ideals it presented, it was, in its own time, 
thoroughly English ; the Anglo-Saxon was not con- 
scious that he was listening to a piece of " foreign 
literature." It is not a mere rendering or adaptation 
of the original songs ; they were substantially made 
over by the Old English poet or poets, — the greater 
number of the Christian references, for example, are 
brief and an essential part of its fabric. Though tell- 
ing of events of which the poet or poets " heard tell," 
it is an integral product, save for one or two evident 
and awkward interpolations. As has been frequently 


pointed out, both the form and spirit of tlie poem are 
definitely not Scandinavian. Whatever the origin of 
the poems from which it was made, it is a true part of 
our literature. At the same time right to possession 
and pride in it, in a very real sense, must be freely con- 
ceded to all Teutonic peoples. . 

Those not professionally engaged in the study of 
English literature are likely to have but little concep- 
tion how much of our Old English poetry ■ — the poetry 
prior to the Norman Conquest- — is still extant, or to 
appreciate its worth. We are rich despite our losses, 
and that which is left to us is amply sufficient to at- 
test the poetic aspiration, the native poetic gift, the 
love for poetry, of our forefathers. This poetry, early 
though it is, displays true elevation, and sometimes 
enthusiasm. It possesses intrinsic dignity. Apart 
from the worthiness of theme and the distinction and 
appeal resulting from artistic treatment, which are the 
sole essentials of true literature, it expresses the best of 
the national life, of the national character. It embodies 
and exalts virtues strong- in the English race then and 
to-day. And this may appear even in the unassuming 
simplicity of a prose translation of the brave story of 
the heroic warrior and blameless king, Beowulf the 


Of Scyld Scefing (from whom Hrothgar sprang, 
whom Beowulf befriended) and his death. 

Lo! We have heard tell of the might in days of old 
of the Spear-Danes' folk-kings, how deeds of prowess 
were wrought by the athelings. Oft Scyld Scefing reft 
away their mead-benches from the throngs of his foes, 
from many a people. Fear came of the earl, after he 
was found at the first in his need. Redress he won for 
that, waxed under the clouds, throve in his glories, 
till of them that dwelt nigh him over the whale-road, 
each must obey him, and pay him tribute. That was 
a good king ! 

To him in after time a son was born, young in Ids 
courts, whom God sent for a help to the people, for 
he saw the dire need they had suffered long time till 
then through lack of a leader ; for this the Lord of 
Life, the King of Glory, gave him honor in the world. 
Renowned was Beowulf ; the fame of the son of Scyld 
spread wide in the Scedelands. In such wise worthily 
among his father's friends by goodly gifts of gold 
must a man in his youth so prevail that in old age, 
when war shall come, willing comrades may cleave to 
their lord and do him service ; among every people a 
man shall thrive by deeds of praise. 

Then, at the hour of his fate, in fulness of valor, 
Scyld went his way. They bare him forth to the sea- 

2 BEOWULF [28-58] 

flood, his own close comrades, as he had himself hid- 
den them, the while he, the Scyldings' friend, the land's 
dear lord, long time held sway by his word. There at 
the haven stood the ringed prow, the atheling's ship, 
gleaming and eager to start. They laid him down 
then, their lord beloved, the ring-giver, in the ship's 
bosom, placed the mighty one at the mast. 

Much treasure was there, trappings of price from 
far-off lands. Never heard J of keel fitted out more 
bravely with weapons of war and weeds of battle, with 
bills and with burnies. A heap of jewels lay in his 
bosom that must needs fare far with him into the grip 
of the flood. Truly with no less gift-offerings and 
folk-treasures did they in this wise dispose him than 
they that at his birth sent him forth alone on the 
waves, being but a child. Thereto they set for him a 
golden standard high overhead, let the wave bear him, 
gave him to the deep. Sorrow of soul was theirs and 
mood of mourning. Men dwelling in halls, heroes 
under heaven, cannot in truth say who came by that 

I. Of Beowulf, Scgld's son (of the same name as 
Beowulf the Geat, ichose deeds are hereafter told), 
and his succession ; of Hrothgar and the building of 
his hall, Heorot ; and of the monster, Gre?idel, and 
his wrath at the rejoicing there, and of his descent 
from the brood of Cain. 

For long thereafter in the walled towns was Beo- 
wulf, the loved folk-king of the Scyldings, known to 
fame among the peoples (his father had gone elsewhere, 
the prince from his own), till in time was born to him 
the great Healfdene, who, whilst he lived, ruled the 
Scyldings in kindness, the ancient one, fierce in battle. 

To him, leader of battle-hosts, four children were 

[59-98] BEOWULF '6 

born into the world, which were, told in order, Heo- 
rogar, and Hrothgar, and Halga the Brave, wliile Sige^ 
neow, as I have heard say, was Ssewela's queen, the 
valorous Scylfiug's beloved bed-sharer. Fortune in 
battle was given then to Hrothgar and fame in war, so 
that, by the time the youth grew of age, his dear kins- 
folk, a great following of young warriors, obeyed him 

It came to his mind to bid men build him a hall- 
dwelling, a mead-house, greater than children of men 
had ever heard of, and that there within it he would 
part to young and old what God had given him, save the 
people's land and the lives of men. Then, as I heard, 
on many a kindred far and wide through the mid-earth 
was the task laid of making fair the folk- hall. Speed- 
ily it befell him in time among men that it was in every 
wise ready, the greatest of hall-houses, and he made 
for it, who far and wide held sway by his word, the 
name of Heorot.. He belied not his pledge and dealt 
out rings and treasure at the feast. The hall rose 
lofty and broad-gabled. Warring surges it awaited 
of loathly flame, nor was it long before deadly hate 
must awaken through the murderous strife of son and 

Then the demon fell, that dwelt in darkness, scarce 
for a space endured that he should hear each day re- 
joicing loud in the hall ; there was sound of the harp 
there and clear song of the gieeman. One spake that 
knew how to tell of man's first making of old, said 
that the Almighty framed the world, the plain bright 
in beauty which the waters encircle, and, glorying in 
His handiwork, set the sun and moon to lighten the 
earth-dwellers, and decked the corners of the earth 
with boughs and leaves, and gave life to every kind 

4 BEOWULF [98-131] 

of creature that walks alive. So the warriors lived in 
joy and plenty, till one, a fiend of hell, began to do evil. 
The grim demon, the fell prowler about the borders 
of the homes of men, who held the moors, the fens, and 
the fastnesses, was called Grendel. In the domain 
of the giant-race, Cain, the man reft of joy, dwelt for 
a time, after the Creator had doomed him. On his 
posterity the Eternal Lord took vengeance for the 
murder, in that he slew Abel. God took no joy in 
that feud, but banished him, for his deed, far from 
mankind. By him were the wanton ones all begotten, 
the eotens and elves and monsters of the deep, the 
giants also who strove long against God — for that He 
repaid them in due requital. 

II. flow Grendel ravaged Ucorot, and caused it 
to remain unused and desolate at night ; of the long 
continuance of this evil, and how flrothgar and his 
people despaired of succor. 

Then went Grendel, when night had come, to spy 
about the high house and see how the King-Danes had 
left it after the beer-drinking. There he found the 
company of athelings sleeping after the feast ; sorrow 
they knew not, or the evil baps of men. The baneful 
wight, grim and greedy, fierce and pitiless, was soon 
alert, and took, where they rested, thirty thanes. 
Thence fared he back homeward, boastfully exultant 
over his spoil, and sought his abiding-places with that 
glut of slaughter. 

Thereupon at dawn, with break of day, plain enough 
to the warriors was Grendel's might in strife. Then 
was weeping upraised after all their glad feasting, a 
great cry at dawn. When they had seen the track 
of the loathly one, the woeful demon, the prince re- 
nowned, the atheling passing good, sat joyless, under- 

[131-108] BEOWULF 5 

went heaviness of grief, suffered sorrow for his thanes ; 
too sore was that trouble, too hateful and lingering. 
Nor was it longer than after one night that Grendel 
again wrought murderous destruction still more griev- 
ous, nor recked of the violence and evil — too fixed 
was he in them. It was easy then finding one who 
sought a place of rest for himself farther away, a bed 
apart from the buildings, now that the hate of that 
thane of hell had been shown and truly declared by a 
clear token ; he kept himself farther away from then 
on, and in some safer place, that might escape the 

Thus had Grendel mastery and warred against the 
right, he alone against all, till the fairest of houses 
stood idle. A great while it was, twelve winters' sea- 
son, that the friend of the Scyldings endured this 
trouble, every woe, the utmost of sorrow. In due 
course thereafter it became known openly to the chil- 
dren of men through songs sorrowfully, that Grendel 
had striven for a time against Hrothgar, waged for 
many half-years a ruthless war, ceaseless strife, evil, 
and violence, nor would in peaceful wise lift the deadly 
doom from any man of the might of the Danes, nor 
durst any even among the worshipful ones look for 
better fortune at the slayer's hands. The grisly 
monster, the dark death-shadow, rested not in pur- 
suit of young and old, lay in wait and made ambush. 
Night after night he held the misty moors ; men know 
not whither the creatures of hell will walk on their 

In this wise, often, the enemy of mankind, the 
lonely one terrible, wrought many an outrage, deeds 
that shamed them hard to bear. On dark nights he 
stayed in Heorot, the hall brave with gold, yet he might 

6 BEOWULF [igs-202] 

not touch the gift-stool — its treasures he scorned — 
'^or knew he desire for it. 

That was a great grief and sorrow of heart to the 
friend of the Scyldings. Many a one strong in council 
oft sat deliberating ; counsel they devised what with 
bold hearts it were best to do against the terror de- 
scending unforeseen. Sometimes they vowed offer- 
ings in their temples of idols, besought with words of 
prayer that the slayer of demons would find relief for 
the people's sorrow. Such was their custom, the trust 
of the heathen ; the thoughts of their breasts were 
intent on hell, the Creator they knew not — knew not 
the judge of men's deeds, the Lord God, nor truly 
knew they how to praise the Guardian of the Heavens, 
the King of Glory. Woe shall be his who needs must 
through his fierce frowardness thrust down his soul 
into the bosom of the fire, look for no comfort, in no 
wise return ; well shall it be for him that may, after 
the day of death, seek out the Lord and plead for 
peace in the Father's bosom. 

III. Of Beowulf the Geat and his coming to rid 
Hrothgar of Grendel. 

Thus then without ceasing the son of Healfdene 
brooded his season of sorrow. The wise warrior might 
not amend his woes ; too sore was the strife, the dire 
distress, greatest of evils of the night, that had come 
on the people, too hateful and lingering. Of this 
and Grendel's deeds, the thane of Hygelac, of goodly 
fame among the Geats, heard tell when from home. 
Strongest in might of manhood was he in this life's 
day, noble and powerful. He bade be fitted for him- 
self a jrood sea-ooer, said he would seek out the war- 
king, the mighty prince over the swan-road, seeing he 
had need of men. Men deemed wise blamed him no 

[202-241] BEOWULF 1 

whit for that journey, clear though he was to them. 
They spurred on the valiant-minded hero, and sought 
signs for casting his fortune. 

He, the worthy one, took to himself picked warriors 
of the Geat-folk, the boldest he might find. One of 
fifteen, he set out for the sea-wood. A man skilled 
in the sea pointed out the landmarks. Time went on, 
the ship was on the wave, the boat beneath the bluff. 
The warriors ready went up on the prow. The cur- 
rents of the sea eddied along the shore. The warsmen 
bare their bright trappings, war-gear splendrous, into 
the bosom of the vessel. The men shoved out the 
well-joined wood on its willing journey. Then went 
over the billowy sea, sped by the wind, the foamy- 
necked ship, likest to a bird, till next day at the hour 
awaited the curved prow had gone so far that the 
seafarers might see the land, the shore-cliffs gleam, 
the broad sea-nesses. Then was the ocean-farer at 
end of its voyage. 

Thereupon the folk of the Weders stepped up 
quickly on the plain and tied the sea-wood ; their 
sarks rattled, their weeds of war. God they thanked 
because the wave-paths had proved easy for them. 
Then from the steep shore, the warden of the Scyld- 
ings, whose duty it was to keep watch of the sea-cliffs, 
saw them bear over the bulwarks their shining shields 
and gear ready as for battle. He was fretted in his 
mind's thought with the wish to know what men they 
were. The thane of Hrothgar went riding, therefore, 
on his horse to the shore ; stoutly he shook the mighty 
shaft in his hands, asked in words duly considered : 
" What men are ye having battle-gear, clad in burnies, 
who thus come leading a deep ship hither over the 
sea-road, over the waters ? I have long been bound- 

8 BEOWULF [241-281] 

ary warden, kept watch of the shore, that no foe with 
a ship's company might work harm in the land of the 
Danes. No bearers of shields ever undertook to come 
hither more openly ; surely you had not leave from 
the wagers of war, the consent of the kinsfolk. Never 
saw I in the world a greater earl or warrior in harness, 
than is one of you. No lurker at home in the hall is 
he, with weapons bedight, save his looks and matchless 
aspect lie. Now must I learn of what blood ye are, 
ere ye fare further as false spies into the Danes' land. 
Hear ye now, ye seafaring ones, dwelling afar, my 
plain thought ; it is best most quickly to make known 
whence ye come." 

IV. How Beowulf made known his race and errand 
to the coast-guard and was bidden go to Hrothgar. 

To him the most worshipful one, the leader of the 
company, spake in answer : " We are of the kin of 
^v^ r f the Geat-f oik and Hygelac's hearth-companions. My 
father, Ecgtheow by name, the noble high-prince, was 
known to the peoples. He bided years a many ere he 
went hoary from his home. Every man of wise mind 
far and wide remembereth him well. We have come 
with kind intent to seek thy lord, the son of Healf- 
dene, the people's protector. Be thou good in advis- 
ing lis. We have a weighty errand to the famed lord 
of the Danes, nor shall any part of it, as I ween, be 
kept hid. Thou knowest if it be so, as we have truly 
heard tell, that among the Scyldings a secret foe, I 
know not what of spoilers, giveth on dark nights proof 
of hate beyond the knowing through the terror he 
worketh, through fell deeds and death-fall. I, there- 
fore, out of largeness of soul may counsel Hrothgar, 
how he, the wise one and good, may master the foe, if 
that ever the press of his troubles may know change, 

[281-319] BEOWULF . 9 

solace come after, and the waves of care grow cooler, 
else he shall suffer this season of sorrow forever, stress 
of need, so long as in its high place shall stand the 
fairest of houses." 

The warden spake, the fearless retainer, where he 
sat on his horse : " Of each of these, of words and 
works, must an able warrior who judgeth well know 
the difference. I gather that this fellowship is of 
true thought toward the lord of the Scyldings. Bear 
forth then your weapons and gear. I shall guide you, 
and likewise bid my war-thanes keep in due charge 
from any foe your ship, the newly tarred vessel, on 
the shore, till that the bent-necked wood bear back 
the hero beloved, over the sea-streams, to the bounds 
of the Weders. To a wager of war such as he will 
it be given to come out unhurt from this bout of 

Then went they to him. The ship stayed without 
moving ; the broad-beamed craft rested on its cable 
at anchor. The graven boars shone over their gold- 
decked cheek-guards, gleaming and tempered in the 
fire ; grimly warlike of temper, the boar kept his 
watch. The men hastened on ; they went together till 
they might see, splendid and covered with gold, the 
timbered house where the king dwelt, that was among 
earth-dwellers famed beyond all others of halls under 
heaven, — the sheen of it flashed over many lands, 
Then the bold one in battle showed them the home ot 
brave men where it shone, that they might go to it 
straightway ; he, one from among its warsmen, turned 
his horse and word spake after : " It is time for me 
to go. May the Father Almighty through His grace 
keep you safe in your goings. I will to the sea to keep 
watch for unfriendly folk." 

10 BEOWULF [320-3551 

V. Of Beowulfs coming to Ileorot, and its an- 
nouncement to Hrothgar. 

The street was cobbled ; it showed the men the way 
as they went together. The war-burnie gleamed, hard 
and hand-linked, the bright-ringed iron sang in their 
harness, as they then first came faring to the hall in 
their trappings of terror. 

Spent with the sea, they set up their broad shields, 
their well-hardened bucklers against the wall of the 
hall, and bowed them to the benches ; their burnies 
and war-gear rang. The spears, the seamen's weapons, 
stood in one place together with the shafts of ash-wood 
gray above ; the mailed band was well dight with weap- 
ons. A proud warrior then asked the warsmen, where 
they sat, of what kin they were : " Whence bear ye 
your shields covered with gold, your gray battle-sarks, 
and helmets grim, your heap of battle-shafts. I am 
Hrothgar's herald and serving-man. Never saw I, of 
stranger folk, thus many men of more valiant bearing. 
I ween in proud daring, not as driven to exile but 
through greatness of soul, have ye sought Hrothgar." 

Him then the proud prince of the Weders, strong 
in might, answered, and word spake after : " We are 
Hygelac's table-comrades. Beowulf is my name. I 
will tell thy lord, the mighty prince, the son of Healf- 
dene, mine errand, if he will grant us, good as he is, 
to give him greeting." 

Wulfgar spake ; he was prince of the Wendles ; his 
boldness of heart, his prowess and wisdom were known 
unto many: "I will ask the mighty prince, the giver 
of rings, the lord of the Scyldings, friend of the Danes, 
as thou desirest, concerning thine errand, and quickly 
make known to thee the answer he of his goodness 
thinketh to give me." 

[35G-395] BEOWULF 11 

He turned him then quickly where Hrothgar sat, 
old and with hair exceeding white, among his band of 
earls. The valiant one went till he stood at the shoulder 
of the lord of the Danes, for he knew the ways of men 
of gentle birth. Wulfgar spake to his gracious lord : 
" Hither have fared over the ocean-stretches, come 
from afar, men of the Geats. The warriors name the 
foremost man among them Beowulf. They pray, my 
lord, that they may exchange speech with thee. Make 
thou not denial, O Hrothgar, to gladden them with 
thy converse. They seem from their war-gear worthy 
of the respect of earls ; the leader at least, who hath 
led these warsinen hither, is surely goodly." 

VI. How Hrothgar hade the Geats he welcome, and 
Beowulf told his errand. 

Hrothgar, helm of the Scyldings, spake : " I knew 
him as a child. His father of old was named Ecgtheow ; 
to him Hrethel the Geat at his home gave his only 
daughter. Boldly now hath his son come hither, and 
sought out a true friend. The seafaring ones when 
they carried thither to the Geats costly gifts for 
friendly -remembrance brought word that he, the bold 
one in war, had in his hand-grip the strength of thirty. 
Him, I have hope, the Holy God has sent us West- 
Danes of His grace for aid against dread of Grendel. 
Gifts must I tender the good youth for his brave spirit. 
Make haste and bid the band of kinsmen come in 
together. Say to them also in fitting words they are 
welcome among the Dane-folk." 

Then Wulfgar went to the door of the hall, stood 
there and spake : " My lord, the victorious prince of 
the East-Danes bids me tell you he knoweth your high 
kinship, and that ye in his sight, ye bold in heai't, 
are welcome hither over the sea-waves. Now may ye 

12 BEOWULF [30&-436] 

go in your war-gear, under your battle-masks, to see 
Hrothgar. Let your war-shields and spears, shafts for 
the killing, abide here the outcome of your converse." 

Then the mighty one arose with many a man about 
him, a press of doughty thanes. Some remained there, 
as the brave one bade them, kept watch of the war- 
gear. Together they went speedily where the hero 
directed, under Heorot's roof. 

The bold one went, stern beneath his helmet, till he 
stood within. Beowulf spake — the network of the 
burnie, linked by the smith's craft, gleamed upon him : 
" Hail to thee, Hrothgar ! I am Hygelac's kinsman 
and war-thane. I have already in my youth essayed 
many deeds of prowess. To me openly were Grendel's 
doings made known in the land of my people. Sea- 
faring men say that this hall, the fairest of dwellings, 
stands idle and useless to all, so soon as the evenin g's '■ 
light becometh hid 'neath the bright heaven. Then 
did wise men, Lord Hrothgar, the worthiest of my peo- 
ple, counsel that I seek thee, for they knew the strength 
of my might, saw it for themselves when I came from 
battle, blood-stained from the foe, where I bound five 
of them, overthrew the race of eotens, and slew the 
nickers by night in the waves — suffered perilous 
straits, repaid the hate shown the Weders (woes they 
endured !), put an end to their sorrows. And now I, by 
my single hand, shall bring Grendel, the demon, the 
giant one, to judgment. I desire now therefore, prince 
of the Bright-Danes, to ask thee one boon. Refuse 
me not, guardian of warriors, loved friend of the peo- 
ple, now I am come from so far, that I alone with my 
band of earls, my body of brave men, may cleanse 
Heorot. I have also learned that the monster in his 
recklessness takes no thought to use weapons : I then, 



so may my liege-lord, Hygelac, find pleasure in me, shall 
think scorn to bear sword or the broad shield, yellow- 
rimmed, to the battle, but with my hand-grip shall I 
join with the fiend and fight to the death, foe against 
foe. He must there, whom death taketh, believe it 
the Lord's award. I ween that Grendel, if he prevail, 
shall feast undismayed on the Geat-folk in the war- 
hall, as he hath oft done on the might of the Hreth- 
men. Thou shalt not need then to hide my head 
away ; for Grendel will have me, stained with blood, 
if death take me, will bear away the bloody corse and 
think to devour it ; he, the lone-goer, will eat it un- 
grieving, and smear with my blood his moor-lairs ; 
no longer shalt thou need then to care for my body's 
nurture. Send to Hygelac, if warfare take me, the 
best of battle- weeds, goodliest of garments, that guards 
my breast — it was the bequest of Plrethla, and the 
handwork of Weland. Wyrd goeth ever as she must ! " 

VIL Of Hroihgar's answer, telling of Grendel, 
and of the feasting. 

Hrothgar, helm of the Scyldings, spake : " To be a 
bulwark of defence and a prop hast thou sought us, 
my friend Beowulf. Thy father waged the greatest 
of feuds ; with his own hand he slew Heatholaf among 
the Wulfings. Then might not the kin of the Weders 
hold to him for fear of war. Thence sought he the 
folk of the South-Danes, the Honor-Scyldings, over 
the moil of the waves, when I first ruled the Dane- 
folk and held in my youth the treasure-city of heroes ; 
it was when Heorogar, my elder brother, Healfdene's 
child, had died and was no more living — a bettei. 
man was he than I. Afterward, I settled the feud for 
money, sending ancient treasure to the Wulfings over 
the back of the waters ; oaths your father sware to me, 

14 BEOWULF [473-KBl 

" Sorrow it is to me in soul to say to any man what 
despite and instant evil Grendel hath wrought me in 
Heorot through his malice. My hall-company, my 
band of warsmen, is miuished ; Wyrd swept them 
away into the horror that compasseth Grendel. God 
may readily stay the mad spoiler in his deeds. Full 
often boasted my warsmen drunken with beer, over 
their ale-horns, that they in the beer-hall with their 
dread blades would await a meeting with Grendel. 
Then was the mead-hall, this lordly dwelling, at morn- 
ing-tide, when day grew light, stained with gore, all 
the bench-boards besprent with blood, the hall with 
the bloodshed ; wherefore I had so many the fewer 
true thanes, warriors beloved, as death took away. 
Sit now to the feasting and unfold to my men thy 
purpose and hope of success, as thy mind may prompt 

Then was a bench set for the Geatmen in the hall 
all together. There the strong-hearted ones went to 
sit, in excellence of might. A thane looked to the 
task set him, to bear in his hands the fretted ale-stoup, 
and poured out the shining mead. Now and again 
the gleeman sang clear in Heorot. There was joy 
among the warriors, a worshipful company by no 
means small of Danes and Weders. 

VIII. How Hunferth, angered by the honor paid 
Beowulf, asked concerning his swimming-match with 
Breca, in which, so he says, Beowulf was over- 
matched, and how Beowulf answered him. 

Hunferth, the son of Ecglaf, who sat at the feet 
of the lord of the Scyldings, spake and unloosed hid- 
den cause of strife ; great heart-burning was his be- 
cause of the journey of Beowulf, the bold seafarer, for 
that he could not brook that any other man should 

[504-542] BEOWULF 15 

ever win more of honors in the mid-earth under heaven 
than himself : " Art thou that Beowulf that strove 
against Breea, didst vie with him in swimming on the 
broad sea, when ye twain didst try the billows, and 
out of mad boastfulness risked your lives in the deep 
waters ? Not any man, loved or loathed, might wean 
ye from your hazardous venture. So ye swam on the 
sea, covered the sea-streams with your arms, measured 
the sea-ways, smote with your hands, and glided over 
the ocean. The ocean was swollen with billows in 
winter's flood. In the grip of the waters ye toiled 
seven nights. He overmastered thee in the swimming, 
had the greater might. Then at morning-tide the sea 
bare him up among the Heatharemes, whence, clear to 
his people, he sought his loved home, the land of the 
Brandings, the fair city of peace where he had his 
folk, his walled town, and treasure. The son of Bean- 
stan truly fulfilled all his boast against thee. There- 
fore I foresee for thee a worse outcome, a strife more 
grim, though thou wast ever strong in the storm of 
battle, if thou durst for the space of a night-time abide 
nigh Grendel." 

Beowulf, son of Ecgtheow, spake : " Look ye, friend 
Hunferth, thou hast talked, drunken with beer, more 
than a plenty about Breca, and told of his venture. 
The truth I shall tell, that I had more endurance in 
the sea, strength in the waves, than any other man. 
We said when we were children, and made a vaunt of 
it — we were both of us still in our youth ■ — ■ that wo 
would hazard our lives out upon the ocean, and it 
was thus we fulfilled it. We held our stout swords 
bare in our hands as we swam in the sea, for we 
thought to guard ourselves against the whale-fishes. 
No whit might he swim ahead of me on the waves o£ 

16 BEOWULF [512-579] 

the flood, or more swiftly in the deep ; nor would I 
from him. We were together in the sea the space of 
five nights, till the flood and the rising waves, coldest 
of weather and night closing down in mist, drave us 
apart, and the north-wind, battle-fierce, came against 
us. Rough were the waves. The fierceness of the sea- 
fishes was stirred up ; then was my body-sark, hard 
and hand-linked, a help to me against the foes ; my 
woven battle-garment, worked with gold, lay on my 
breast. A fell spoiler in his wrath dragged me to the 
bottom, held me fast, the grim one, in his grip. Yet 
it was given me with my point, with my war-sword, 
to reach the monster. The strife did away with the 
mighty sea-beast by my hand." 

IX. Of the outcome of Beowulf 's match with 
Breca, and how the hall was given over in charge 
to Beowulf by Hrothgar. 

" Thus the loathly raveners ceased not to press me 
sore. I served them as was right with my sword of 
price. In no wise had they joy, those workers of evil, 
of a full meal, to seize on me and sit round to the 
feast nigh the sea-bottom, for on the morrow, wounded 
by thrusts, slain by the sword-strokes, they lay up 
along the sea-beach, so might they never again stay 
the seafarers on their way about the deep crossing. 

" Light came in the east, the bright beacon of God, 
the waves went down, so that I might see the sea- 
nesses, the windy walls. Wyrd oft spareth one not 
marked for death, if his courage be good. Be that 
as it may, it was mine to slay nine nickers with the 
sword. Never heard I tell at night of a harder fight 
'neath the vault of heaven, nor of man in worse plight 
in the sea-streams. Yet I got off with my life from 
the grip of my foes, though worn with my faring. 

[B79-G17] BEOWULF 17 

Then the sea-flood in its streaming, the tossing billows, 
bare me on to the Finns' land. 

" Never heard I aught of like shrewd affrays, terror 
of sword-play, on thy part. Never did Breca yet, or 
either of you, achieve in the sport of battle deed so 
daring with blood-stained blades (I mako little boast 
of it), though thou wert the slayer of thine own bre- 
thren, thy chief of kin ; for that thou shalt suffer thy 
doom in hell, whatever thy cunning. I tell thee truly, 
son of Ecglaf, that Grendel, the monster abhorred, 
would never have wrought so many horrid deeds and 
shameful harm in Heorot toward thy lord, were thy 
mind and soul so shrewdly fierce, as thou thyself dost 
say. But he hath found he need not dread overmuch 
the enmity or fierce onslaught of your people, the 
Victor-Scyldings. He taketh toll by force, spareth 
none of the Dane-folk, warreth after his lust, killeth 
and eateth, nor looketh for reprisal from the Spear- 
Danes. But the strength and prowess of the Geats 
shall now bid him to battle. He that may shall go 
afterwards pi'oudly to the mead-drinking, when the 
morning-light of another day, the sun clad in bright- 
ness, shall shine forth from the south o'er the children 
of men." 

Then the lord of the Bright-Danes, giver of treasure, 
gray-haired and battle-famed, was assured of succor ; 
the shepherd of the people gave ear to Beowulf's fixed 
intent. There was laughter of heroes ; the uproar of 
it sounded forth ; joyous was their converse. 

Wealhtheow, the queen, in her deckings of gold, 
went forth, mindful of courtly custom. She greeted 
the men in the hall, and then, as wife free-born, gave the 
cup first to the noble warden of the East-Danes, bade 
him, beloved by his people, be blithe at the beer- 

18 BEOWULF [617-655] 

drinking. He, the king famed for victory, in glad- 
ness partook of the feast and the hall-cup. Then the 
lady of the Helmings went about to old and young in 
every part, gave the gemmed beaker till the time came 
the proud-thoughted queen, decked with her diadem, 
should bring the mead-cup to Beowulf. She greeted 
the Lord of the Geats and thanked God with wisely- 
ordered words that her wish was fulfilled, in that she 
might put her trust in some one of earls for help in 
her troubles. 

The warrior fierce in the fight drank of the cup at 
the hands of AVealhtheow, and then, made eager for 
the fray, gan speak in formal wise ; Beowulf, son of 
Ecgtheow, spake : " This I purposed, when I went up 
on the deep, boarded the sea-craft with my fellowship, 
that I should either work the will of your people 
wholly, or fall in the fray, fast in the fiend's grip. 
Either will I do deeds befitting my birth or meet my 
last day in this mead-hall." These words, the vaunt 
of the Geat, pleased the lady. In her deckings of 
gold, she passed on to sit, the free-born folk-queen, 
beside her lord. 

Then again, as erstwhile, was brave speech spoken 
in the hall. In gladness were the people. The uproar 
rose of the victor-folk, till that the son of Healfdene 
had a mind suddenly to seek his evening's rest, for 
he knew that an onslaught was purposed on the high 
hall by the monster, so soon as they might no more 
see the sun's light, or night growing dusk over all, and 
creatures of the shadow-helm should come stalking, 
dark beneath the sky. The company all arose. Then 
Hrothgar greeted Beowulf, one warrior another, in set 
speech, wished him safe outcome, overmastery of the 
wine-hall, and spake this word : " Never, since I might 

[055-690] BEOWULF 19 

lift hand or shield, have I ever given over in trust 
this mighty house of the Danes to any of men, save 
now to thee. Have now and hold this fairest of 
houses, bear thy greatness in mind, make known the 
might of thy prowess, watch against the foe. No lack 
shall be thine of things worth the having, if thou 
come forth with thy life from this mighty task." 

X. How Beowulf hept watch for Grendel. 

Then Hrothgar, lord of the Seyldings, went him 
forth from the hall with his troop of warriors. The 
warrior-leader would go to his rest with Wealhtheow, 
his wife. The Kingly Glory had set, as men have 
heard, a guard against Grendel in the hall. A charge 
apart he held in respect to the lord of the Danes, kept 
ward for the giant one. 

Truly, the prince of the Geats put ready trust in 
his bold might and the Lord's grace. He took off him 
then his iron burnie, his helm from his head, gave his 
richly-chased sword, choicest of blades, to his serving- 
thane, and bade the man keep his war-gear. Ere he 
mounted his bed, spake Beowulf, the worthy one of 
the Geats, a vaunting word : " In no wise count I my- 
self less in battle-crafts and deeds of war than Gren- 
del himself. Therefore I will not with the sword slay 
him and take his life, though the might is mine wholly. 
These helps — to strike at me and hew my shield — 
he knows not, daring though he be in deeds of malice. 
But we, this night, if he dare seek strife without 
weapons, shall lay aside the sword. And, at the end, 
may the wise God, the Holy Lord, award the mastery 
on either hand as seemeth Him meet." 

Then the brave one in battle laid him down, the 
head-pillow received the earl's cheek, and about him 
many a hardy seafarer bowed him to his hall-rest. 

20 BEOWULF [691-726] 

No one of them thought that he thereafter should ever 
again seek his loved home, his people, or the free town 
where he was reared, seeing they had heard tell that, 
ere then, a murderous death had taken off too many 
by far of the Dane-folk in the wine-hall. But the Lord 
gave them the destiny to speed in the strife, help and 
aid to the people of the Weuers, such that they all over- 
came their foe through one man's strength, the might 
of himself alone. The truth is made known that the 
Mighty God ruleth mankind from everlasting. 

In the dark night came striding the walker in 
shadow. Those, set to watch, that should guard the 
gabled hall, slept, all save one. It was known to men 
the fell spoiler might not, if the Lord willed not, 
swing them under the shadow. But that single one, 
watching in flush of wrath with swelling anger, bided 
the award of battle. 

XL Of the coming of Grendel, and of Beowulf 's 
encounter with him. 

Then from the moor, from under the misty fells, 
came Grendel striding ; God's wrath he bare. The 
fell spoiler planned to traj) one of the race of men in 
the high hall. Under the clouds he went till he might 
see without trouble the wine-hall, the treasure-house 
of men, brave with gold. It was not the first time 
he had sought the home of Hrothgar ; never, though, 
before or since in the days of his life found he hall- 
thanes more doughty. Came then making his way to 
the hall the warring one severed from joy. The door, 
fastened with bands forged in the fire, soon gave way 
when he laid hold of it with his hands ; bent on evil, 
puffed up with wrath as he was, he brake open the 
mouth of the hall. Quickly then the fiend trod in on 
the shining floor, strode on, fierce of mood. An un- 

[726-763] BEOWULF 21 

lovely light, likest to flame, stood in his eyes. He saw 
in the hall many warriors sleeping, a fellowship of 
one blood assembled together, the throng of kinsfolk. 
Then his heart laughed within him. He thought, the 
grisly monster, ere day came, to sunder life from body 
of each of them, for hope of a fill of feasting had 
come to him. But no longer was it fate's decree that 
he might, after that night, feed on more of the race 
of men. 

The kinsman of Hygelac, strong in might, watched 
how the fell spoiler was of mind to set about his sud- 
den onslaughts. The monster thought not to be long . 
about it, but for a first start seized quickly on a sleep- 
ing thane, tore him taken unawares, bit into his bone- 
frame, drank the blood from the veins, and swallowed 
him down piece by piece. Soon he had bolted all the 
lifeless body, hand and foot. He stepped forward 
nearer, took next in his hands the hero, bold of heart, 
on his bed. The fiend reached for him with his claw, 
but he grasped it with set purpose, and threw his 
weight on Grendel's arm. Soon fouud that herder 
of evils that never in any other man, in any corner of 
the earth, had he met with mightier hand-grip. He 
was affrighted mind and heart, yet might he make off 
none the sooner. His one thought was to get him 
gone ; he was minded to flee into the darkness, to seek 
the drove of devils. There was then for him no such 
doings as he before that, in earlier days, had fallen 
in with. 

Remembered then the good kinsman of Hygelac his 
evening's vaunt ; he stood upright and laid fast hold 
upon him. The fingers of the giant one snapped. He 
was getting free and the hero stepped forward. The 
mighty one meant, if so he might, to get at large, 

22 BEOWULF [763-800] 

and flee away to his fen-lairs. He knew his fingers' 
strength was in the foeman's close grip. That was an 
ill journey the doer of mischief bad taken to Heorot. 

The lordly hall was clamorous with the din. Panic 
fell on all the Danes that dwelt in the city, on every 
bold warrior and earl. Maddened were the raging 
strugglers ; the building reechoed. It was great won- 
der, then, that the wine-hall held firm against them in 
their battle-rage, that it did not fall, the fair dwelling 
of man's making, to the earth, save that shrewd care 
had bound it so fast with iron bands within and with- 
out. Then, as I have heard tell, when they strove in 
their fury, mead-benches many, decked with gold, fell 
over from the raised floor. The wise ones among the 
Scyldings had never thought that any man of men 
by his might should ever shatter that fabric, passing 
good and made brave with bones of beasts, or spoil it 
through cunning, save the fire's embrace might swal- 
low it up in smoke. 

An uproar strange enough rose on high. Quaking 
terror lay upon the North-Danes, upon those who heard 
the outcry, hearkened God's foe yelling out his stave 
of terror, his song of defeat, the thrall of hell bewail- 
ing his hurt. Much too tightly that one held him, 
who had of men the strongest might in this life's day. 

XII. Of Beowulf "' 's victory and OrendeV 's flight. 

The protector of earls would not in any wise let 
him that came with murder in his heart go from him 
alive ; he counted not his life's day of price to any. 
Earls of his a plenty made play with their tried 
swords, handed down from their fathers, to save their 
lord's life, if in any wise they might ; they knew not, 
those bold-hearted warsmen, when they went into the 
fight and thought \o hew Grepdel on every side and 

[801-S37] BEOWULF 23 

find out his soul, that not any pick of blades on earth, 
none of battle-bills, could touch that fell spoiler, for 
he had laid his spell on weapons of victory, on every 
keen edge. Woeful was his last end to be in this life's 
day, and his outlawed ghost must fare far into the 
fiend's grip. Then found he, that before in mirth of 
mood had wrought mankind many evils (he was under 
God's ban), that his body would avail him not, seeing 
that the brave kinsman of Ilygelac had him by the 
hand ; hateful to each was the other alive. The grisly 
monster suffered hurt of body. In his shoulder a fear- 
ful wound began to show ; the sinews sprang apart, 
the bone-frame cracked asunder. Fame of the battle 
was given to Beowulf. Grendel must flee away be- 
neath the fen-fells, sick unto death, go seek out his 
dwelling, reft of his comfort. He knew then the 
more surely that his life's end was come, his measure 
of days. The will of all the Danes was fulfilled by 
that deadly strife. He then, who had come from afar, 
the wise one and bold of heart, had cleansed Heorot, 
and saved it from peril. The prince of the Geatmen 
had made whole his boast to the East-Danes in that 
he had taken away all their trouble, the burden of 
spiteful hate they till then had suffered, and in stress 
of need must suffer, a sorrow by no means small. A 
manifest token of this it was, when the valorous one 
laid down the hand, the arm and shoulder — the whole 
claw of Grendel was there together — beneath the 
broad roof. 

XIII. How the Danes rejoiced and followed Gren- 
del's track to his lair; how they raced their horses on 
the way back and hearkened to songs of Beowulf's 
deed, and of Sigemund and Heremod. 

In the morning, then, as I have heard tell, was 

24 BEOWULF [838-«77] 

there many a warrior about the mead-hall ; from far 
and near the leaders of the people fared through the 
wide ways to see the marvel, the tracks of the foe. 
Grendel's life-ending seemed no matter for sorrow to 
any of those that scanned the way he trod after his 
undoing, how in weariness of heart, worsted in the 
fight, hunted forth and nigh unto death, he bare him- 
self away then in flight to the mere of the nickers. 
Its flood there was seething with gore, its dread coil 
of waters all mingled with hot blood ; the deep welled 
with the blood of slaughter, after that, bereft of joys, 
he laid down his life, his heathen soul, doomed to 
death, in his fen-shelter, where hell took him. 

Back then from the mere on their joyful way went 
riding on their steeds the old tried comrades, men of 
valor, and many a youth likewise, the warriors on their 
dapple-grays. There was Beowulf's glory remembered. 
Oft said many a one that, south or north, between the 
seas, over the wide earth, beneath the reach of the sky, 
no other of shield-bearers was better, or more worthy 
of a kingdom. No whit though truly did they cast 
blame on their lord and friend, the kindly Hrothgar, 
for he was a good king. Whiles, the bold in battle 
let their yellow steeds leap or race together, where the 
going seemed good or was known to be best; whiles, a 
thane of the king, a man laden with proud vaunts, who 
kept in mind old stories without end, found new words 
for them, soothly bound together — and afterward be- 
gan to tell Beowulf's feat with cunning skill and in 
happy wise to frame well-ordered speech, add word 
answering to word, and told aught man might choose 
of what he had heard tell of Sigemund's deeds of 
prowess, many things not widely known, the strife of 
the son of Wsels, journeys to far lands, feuds and 

[878-922] BEOWULF 25 

deeds of violence, that the children of men had not 
wist of readily, save Fitela were with him when he 
was minded to tell somewhat of such like, the uncle 
to his nephew — close comrades ever in every strife. 

" They had slain with their SWOrds full ninny of the race of the . 
Eotens. No small glory was added to ttigomund after his death's 
day, seeing that, stout in battle] he slew tin: drngOnj keeper of 
the treasure-hoard. Alone under the hoar stone, llie son of the 
atheling dared the hold deed, nor was I'iLela with liini. None 
the less was it given him that his sword, lordly blade that it was, 
should go through the marvellous worm so it stood fast in the 
wall — the dragon died a bloody death. So sped the dread hero 
by his prowess, that he might take his joy, as he willed, of the 
treasure-hoard ; his sea-boat he loaded, the son of Wails, bare 
into the ship's bosom the bright trappings ; heat made end of 
the dragon. The shield of warriors was of free-hooters most 
widely famed among the races of men for deeds of valor ; he 
throve because of it in days of old. 

"After Heremod's battle-craft failed, his strength and his 
might, he was betrayed, among the Eotens, forth into the power 
of his foes, done away with in haste. The waves of sorrow 
had troubled him long; he became to his people to all the athel- 
ings, a perilous burden. So also often, in earlier times, many a 
prudent man had mourned the course the bold-minded one was 
taking, in whom he had trusted for help against evils, whom 
he had looked to see thrive as the son of his lord, fall heir to 
his father's honors, watch over the folk, the treasure, the home- 
city, the realm of heroes, the ancestral lands of the Scyldings. 
Beowulf, in that he did, was of kindlier will toward his friends 
and toward all; evil came on Heremod." 

Now and again, striving against one another, they 
measured the yellow roads with their coursers. Thus 
was the morning light sped on and hastened by. Man}' 
a brave-minded warrior went to the high hall to see 
the strange wonder. The king himself, also, warden 
of the treasure-hoard, known for his virtues, walked 
in stately wise from the queen's bower with a great 

26 BEOWULF [922-960] 

company, and the queen, with her train of women, 
paced up the path beside him to the mead-hall. 

XIV. Of Urothgar's praise, of Beowulf and Beo- 
wulf's reply. 

Hrothgar spake ; he went to the hall, stood beside 
the pillar, looked on the steep-pitched roof, brave with 
gold, and Grendel's hand : " For this sight thanks he 
paid forthwith to the Almighty ! Much of evil and 
harm have I suffered from Grendel. Ever may God, 
the Lord of Glory, work wonder on wonder. It was 
not long ago that I thought not forever to look for 
help in aught of my troubles whilst the fairest of 
houses stood bloodstained and gory — a woe wide- 
reaching for each of my wise ones who hoped not to 
the end of time to guard the people's fastness from 
foes, from ghosts, and from demons. Now hath a man 
through the Lord's might done a deed we might none 
of us compass aforetime for all our wisdom. Behold, 
truly, this may say even such a one of women, if she 
yet liveth, that hath brought forth this son among 
the races of men, that the everlasting God hath been 
gracious to her in her child-bearing. Now will I love 
thee, Beowulf, best of men, as a son in my heart ; bold 
thou close henceforth this new kinship. No lack shall 
be thine of things worth having in the world, that I 
have at my bidding. Full oft for less service have 
I given award of treasured riches to a warrior not so 
worthy, one weaker in battle. Thou hast wrought for 
thyself by thy deeds that thy fame shall live for ever 
and ever. May the Almighty requite thee with good, 
as till now He hath done ! " 

Beowulf spake, the son of Ecgtheow : " Full gladly 
in thy service have we carried through this mighty 
task, this fight ; boldly we dared the strength of the 

[960-996] BEOWULF 27 

unknown. I wish mightily thou couldst have seen 
him, the foe himself in his trappings, bowed to his 
fall. I thought to bind him full speedily with hard 
bonds on his death-bed, so that he through the grip of 
my hands should lie toiling for his life, save his body 
should slip away. I could not, since the Lord willed 
it not, cut him off from his going ; I held him not fast 
enough, the deadly foe, — much too strong was the 
fiend in his footing. Yet for his life's fending he left 
behind him his claw to mark his path, his arm, and 
his shoulder ; none the less might he buy there, in his 
need, no comfort, nor shall he, because of it, live the 
longer, the loathly spoiler, burdened with sins, for his 
hurt hath straitly clutched him in its close grip with 
bonds of bale. There the outcast, in the guilt of his 
sins, shall abide the great judgment, as the Lord in 
His splendor is minded to mete it unto him." 

Then in his vaunting speech was the warrior, the 
son of Ecgiaf, more quiet concerning deeds of war, 
after that the athelings had seen, each of them there 
before him above the high roof, through the earl's 
might, the hand and fingers of the fiend. Most like 
to steel was each strong nail, the hand-spurs of the 
heathen one, the monstrous barbs of the foeman. 
Each one said that no blade of doughty men, though 
ever so good, would have so laid hold of him as to 
shear away the battle-fist, all bloody, of the monster. 

XV. How Beowulf was feasted and gifts given 

Then forthwith was Heorot bidden to be deckei? 
inwardly by the hand ; many of them there were, of 
men and of women, that made ready the wine-hall, the 
guest-house. Gleaming with gold shone the hangings 
on the wall, wondrous things many to see for any one 

28 BEOWULF [996-1035] 

that looketh at such things. The bright house was 
much broken, all fastened though it was within with 
iron bands. The hinges were wrenched away ; the 
roof alone was left all whole, when the monster, guilty 
of deeds of outrage, hopeless of life, had turned to flee. 
Not easy is it to flee away, let him do it that will, for 
each that hath a soul of the children of men dwelling 
on earth must needs strive toward the place made 
ready for him, forced on him by fate, where his body 
shall sleep, fast in its bed of rest, after life's feasting. 

Then was it the time and hour that the son of Healf- 
dene should go to the hall ; the king himself desired 
to eat of the feast. Never heard I of a people with a 
greater host bear themselves more becomingly about 
their treasure-giver. In the pride of their renown 
they bowed them to the benches, rejoiced in the plenty. 
In fair wise their kinsmen, the valorous-hearted 
Hrothgar and Hrothulf, drank in the high hall many 
a mead-cup. Heorot was filled within with friends ; 
in no wise at this time had the Folk-Scyldings wrought 

Then, in reward for his victory, the son of Healfdene 
gave to Beowulf a golden standard, a broidered war- 
banner, a helmet and burnie ; a mighty treasure-sword 
full many saw borne before the warrior. He needed 
not feel shame before the bowsmen for the gifts given 
him for his keeping ; never heard I of many men that 
gave to others on the mead-bench four treasures in 
friendlier wise. About the helmet's crown, a raised 
ridge without, wound with small rods, maintained a 
guard for the head, that the file-furnished blades, 
hard of temper, might not harm it in their boldness, 
when the warrior with shield must go forth against 
his foes. Then the safeguard of earls bade eight 

[1035-1067] BEOWULF 29 

steeds, their bridles heavy with gold, be led indoors 
on the floor of the hall ; on one of them rested a sad- 
dle, fashioned with cunning art and well-dight with 
treasure, that had been the battle-seat of the high king 
when the son of Healfdene had will to wage the sword- 
play ; never at the front failed the far-famed one's 
battle-might, when the slain were falling. And then 
the prince of the Ingwiues gave Beowulf the right 
over both of these, the steeds and the weapons, bade 
him have good joy of them. In such wise, manfully, 
the mighty prince, treasure- warden of heroes, paid f ov 
shocks of battle with steeds and treasure, such as none 
might ever belie that hath will to speak the truth 
according to the right. 

XVI. Of the king's gifts to Beowulf's men, of 
the rejoicing in Heorot, and of the gleeman's song 
of Finn. 

Further, then, the lord of earls gave treasure on 
the mead-bench, swords handed down from old, to each 
of the earls that had drawn over the sea-way with 
Beowulf, and bade that payment be made with gold 
for the one that Grendel first wickedly slew, as he 
would have slain more of them had not the wise God 
and the hero's daring forestalled that fate for them. 
The Lord ruled all the children of men, as He now 
still doth ; therefore is wise understanding and fore- 
thought of mind best everywhere. He who for long 
in these days of strife maketh use of the world must 
undergo much of good and evil. 

Song and sound of playing were joined together 
there before the battle-leader of the Half-Danes. The 
play-wood was touched, the lay oft rehearsed, what 
time Hrothgar's gleeman must duly call forth the hall- 
joy along the mead-bench : 

30 BEOWULF [1068-1H8] 


" Through the sons of Finn, when the onslaught came on them, 
must Hnaef the Scylding, famed warrior of the Half-Danes, in 
the Frisian slaughter meet with his fall. Hildeburh had truly 
no need to praise the good faitli of the eotens ; not by her fault 
was she bereaved of her dear sons and brothers in the shield- 
play ; one after another they fell, wounded by the spear ; a 
sorrowful woman was she ! 

" It was not for naught, surely, the daughter of Hoc bemoaned 
the decree of fate after morning came, when she might see be- 
neath the sky the murderous overthrow of her kinsmen, where 
till then earth's greatest joy was hers. 

" War took off all Finn's thanes, save only a few, so that he 
might no whit wage war on the battle-field with Hengest, nor 
save by warfare the poor leavings of his band from the thane of 
the prince. But they offered the Danes a pact, that they would 
fit for themselves in every wise another hearth-floor, a hall, and 
a high seat, so might the Danes have equal power with them- 
selves, the children of the eotens, and each day, at the giving of 
gifts, the son of Folcwalda would treat the Danes worshipfully, 
show regard for Hengest's fellowship, by giving of rings, and 
even so much of precious treasure of plates of gold, as that 
wherewith he would cheer the Frisian kindred in the beer-hall. 

" Then they plighted on either side a fast troth of peace. Finn, 
vowed to Hengest by oaths, solemnly and in true earnest, he 
would hold in honor the poor few that were left of Hengest's 
followers under the ruling of his wise men; that no man there 
should break the pact by word or deed, or ever through crafty 
intent call it to mind, though they, bereft of their prince, should, 
since it was thus forced on them, follow him that slew their 
ring-giver; if, moreover, any of the Frisians with reckless speech 
should call that mortal hate to mind, then the sword's edge 
should avenge it. 

" The oath was made, and the treasured gold fetched from the 
hoard. The best warsman of the Battle-Seyldings was ready at 
the fire; on the pile was plain to see the blood-stained sark, the 
swine all of gold, the boar-helmet of tough iron, and many an 
atheling, dead of his wounds, that fell in the slaughter. , 

"Then Hildeburh bade her own son be given to the flames on 
Hnaef's pyre, his body to the burning, and be put on the fire. 
The poor woman wept on his shoulder, sorrowed for him in song. 
The warrior went up on the pile. The greatest of death-fires 



whirled up to the clouds, roared before the barrow; the heads 
melted, the slashes broke apart, when the blood sprang out 
from the body's deadly wounds. The flame, greediest of spirits, 
swallowed up all those whom death had taken olV of both peo- 
ples; from them both had their strength been taken away." 

XVII. Of the end of the song <>/' Finn and of 
Wealhtheoiv' s bearing the cvp to llrothgar. 

"Then the warfarers, despoiled of their friends, went to seek 
out living-places, to see Friesland, its homesteads and its high 
city. Hengest then still, through that death-stained winter, 
dwelt with Finn in every wise without strife. He kept thought 
of his home, though he might not drive his ringed prow over the 
sea. The deep was swollen with storm, dark with the wind. 
Winter looked the waves in its icy shackles, till another year 
came to the homes of men, as it now still doth, the seasons 
glory-bright that ever hold to the times set them. 

" Then was winter away, and fair the earth's bosom. The guest 
in his exile was meaning to go from that land ; but he thought 
rather of vengeance than of the sea-voyage, if so be he might 
bring about a meeting in anger, that he might take his account 
therein of the sons of the Eotens. Thus it was he escaped not 
the law of this world when Hun plunged Lafing into his breast, 
his battle-gleamer, best of swords, whose edges were well-known 
to the eotens. 

" Likewise thereafter a fierce death by the sword found out 
Finn, the bold of heart, ill his own home, after that Guthlaf and 
Oslaf, come home over the sea, had told in sorrow of the grim 
strife, and blamed on him the many sorrows that had befallen them. 
He might not keep his wavering spirit in his breast. The hall 
was covered then with the bodies of the foe, and Finn likewise was 
slain, the king among his fellowship, and his queen taken. The 
bowsmen of the Scyldings bare to the ships all the household 
goods of the country's king, all they might find in Finn's house 
of precious ornaments and cunningly set gems. Over the sea-way 
they bare the princely lady to the Danes, led her to her people." 

The lay was sung, the gleeman's song. Again rose 
the revel, the clamor along the benches resounded 
clear, the bearers gave of the wine from vessels of 

32 BEOWULF [1162-1195] 

wondrous workmanship. Then came forth Wealhtheow 
under her golden diadem, going where the goodly 
twain, uncle and nephew, were seated ; as yet they 
were at peace together, each loyal to the other. There 
likewise sat Hunferth, the spokesman, at the feet of 
the lord of the Scyldings ; all of them had faith in 
his mettle, that he had a high spirit, though he had 
not been steadfast to his kinsfolk in the sword-play. 

Then spake the lady of the Scyldings : " Take this 
cup, my liege-lord, giver of treasure. Be thou of glad 
heart, generous friend of men, and speak to the Geats 
with words of kindness. So should one do. Be gra- 
cious towards the Geats, mindful of gifts, now that 
thou hast peace near and far. They have told me 
that thou desirest to hold this warrior as thy son. 
Heorot, the bright hall of ring-giving, is cleansed ; 
take thy joy of giving, whilst thou mayest, many re- 
wards, and leave folk and realm to thy kinsmen, when 
thou must forth to meet thy fate. I know my gra- 
cious Hrothulf, that he will keep in honorable charge 
the youth, if thou, friend of the Scyldings, shouldst 
leave the world before him. I ween lie will repay our 
children with good, if he keep thought of all we have 
done in the past at his wish and for his behoof, since 
he was still but a child." 

Then she turned to the bench where her sons were, 
Hrethric and Hrothmund, and the sons of warriors, 
the youth there together. There by the two brothers 
sat the goodly one, Beowulf, the Geat. 

XVIII. Of the queen' s gifts to Beowulf and of the 
feast and their going to rest when evening came. 

A cup was borne to him, and pledges proffered with 
friendly speech, and twisted gold laid before him in 
token of gracious regard, with two arm-jewels, a coat 

[1195-1230] BEOWULF 33 

of mail, rings, and the fairest of collars I have heard 
tell of on earth — of none fairer heard I under the 
sky among the hoarded treasures of heroes, after that 
Harna bare off to the bright city the collar of the 
Brosings, the jewel and coffer, fled the evil wiles of 
Eormanric, and chose eternal gain, Hygelae the 
Geat, grandson of Swerting, had this collar on his 
last foray, when beneath his standard he guarded his 
treasure, kept ward of his battle-spoil ; him Wyrd 
took away, after that he, for his foolhardiness, had 
undergone woes and vengeance at the hands of the 
Frisians. The lord of the realm carried with him at 
that time this adornment and its precious stones over 
the cup of the waves. He fell beneath his shield, and 
the king's body came into the Franks' grasp, and his 
breast-mail and the collar as well. The fighting-men 
of less degree despoiled the corse after the battle's 
end. The people of the Geats filled the abode of the 

The hall caught up the clamor of the revel. Wealh- 
theow made discourse, and spake before the com- 
pany : " Take thy joy in this collar, dear Beowulf, 
youth blessed of fortune, and use this mail and these 
treasures of the people, and thrive well. Give proof 
of thyself by thy might and be friendly in giving 
counsel to these youths ; I shall keep in mind thy 
due therefor. Thou hast so wrought that far and near, 
forever henceforth, men shall pay thee honor, even so 
far as the sea enfoldeth its windy walls. Be, whilst 
thou livest, an atheling blest with wealth ; I heartily 
wish thee holdings of treasure. Be thou helpful in 
doing for my son, guarding his welfare. Here is 
each earl true to the other, mild of mood, loyal to his 
liege-lord. The thanes are willing, the people in 

34 BEOWULF [1230-1264] 

every wise ready at bidding. Ye warriors well- 
drunken, do ye as I bid." 

Then went she to her place. There was the choicest 
of feasts. The men drank of the wine ; of Wyrd they 
recked not, the grim doom fixed from aforetime, as it 
had come to many an earl. When that even came and 
Hrothgar went him, the ruler, to his rest, in his house, 
unnumbered earls kept ward of the hall, as they oft 
had done before. They bared the bench-floor and it 
was spread through its length with beds and pillows. 
Ready and doomed for death, one of the beer-servers 
bowed him to his rest in the hall. They set at their 
heads their battle-targes, the framed wood of their 
bright shields. There, over each atheling, were plain 
to see on the bench the helmet lifted in battle, the 
ringed burnie, the mighty shafts in their strength. It 
was their rule to be ever and again ready for the fray 
at home or in wartime, either one, even at what time 
soever need might befall their liege-lord. That was 
a good people ! 

XIX. Of the coming of Grendel's dam. 

They sank then to sleep. One paid sorely for his 
evening's rest, even as full often had befallen them 
after Grendel took the gold-hall for his own, did what 
was not right till the end came, death following upon 
his sins. It became plain, and known far and wide of 
men, that an avenger still lived even yet after him, 
the loathly one, for a long time following upon that 
bitter warfare. Grendel's mother kept thought of 
her sorrow, a she-one, a monster-wife, that was fated 
to dwell midst the water's terrors, in the cold streams, 
after Cain had slain by the sword his only brother, 
his kin by one father — outlawed he went away then, 
with the mark of murder on him, to flee the joys of 

[1264-1300] BEOWULF 35 

men, and dwelt in waste places. Of him were born 
many demons ordained of fate ; Grendel was one of 
them, an outcast filled with hatred, who found at Heorot 
a man watching, awaiting battle. There the monster 
came to grips with him, but he was mindful of the 
strength of his might, the deep-seated gift God had 
given him, and trusted him for grace in the Almighty, 
for comfort and aid ; hence he overcame the fiend, 
felled the demon of hell. Then went he forth, that 
foe of mankind, abject and reft of joy, to look on the 
house of death. And, still thereafter, his mother, 
greedy, and dark of mood, was of mind to go a jour- 
ney fraught with grief to avenge the death of her son, 
came therefore to Heorot, where the King-Danes slept 
in the hall. 

Then when Grendel's mother made her way in, was 
there straightway there for the earls a turning back- 
ward to what had been before. The terror was less 
even by so much as is woman's strength, the fierce- 
ness of a woman in fight, beside a weapon-bearer's, 
when the sword bound with gold, wrought with the 
hammer, the blade blood-stained, sheareth with its 
tough edge the swine that standeth above the helmet. 

Then in the hall from above the benches was the 
hard-edged sword taken down, many a broad shield 
lifted in the hand's grip ; they whom the terror seized 
took no thought of helmet or broad burnie. The 
monster was in haste, would thence away to save her 
life, for that she was discovered. Quickly had she 
one of the athelings fast in her clutch, and went off 
to the fen. lie whom she slew at his rest was a strong 
shield-warrior, a warsman of enduring fame, of all the 
men in office of comrade the dearest to Hrothgar be. 
tween the seas. Beowulf was not there, for before 

36 BEOWULF [1300-1333] 

then, after the treasure-giving, another resting-place 
had been fixed upon for the mighty Geat. There was 
outcry in Heorot. She had taken in its gore the hand 
of Grendel that so much had been made of. Sorrow 
was begun anew, was come again to their homes. The 
bargain was not good, seeing tbey must on either hand 
make purchase with the lives of friends. 

Then was the old king, the hoar warrior, stricken 
in spirit when he knew his chief thane, the one dearest 
to him, to be lifeless and dead. Beowulf, the warrior 
crowned with victory, was quickly fetched to the bower. 
At daybreak, he, together with his earls, the high- 
born warrior himself with his followers, went where 
the wise king awaited if so be, after tidings thus griev- 
ous, the Almighty might ever will to work a change 
for him. The hero tried in battle went then with his 
fellowship over the floor — the timbered hall rang — 
to give words of greeting to the wise lord of the Ing- 
wines, asked him, as courtesy bade, if his night had 
been peaceful. 

XX. How Hrothgar told Beowulf of the loss of 
JEschere and of GrendeVs darn. 

Hrothgar, helm of the Scyldings, spake : " Ask not 
concerning that which gives joy. Sorrow is renewed 
among the Dane-folk. Dead is .ZEschere, Yrmenlaf's 
elder brother, my counsellor and adviser, the comrade 
who stood shoulder to shoulder with me when we kept 
guard of our heads in battle, when the footmen met 
together, and boar-helms clashed. Such an atheling, 
passing good, as .ZEschere was, should an earl be. The 
murderous demon, the wandering one, with her hand 
hath slain him in Heorot. I know not what path from 
here the fell one hath taken, glorying in her carrion 
food, glad of her fill. She hath avenged thine on- 

[1333-1372] BEOWULF 37 

slaught, that thou didst kill Grendel yesternight in 
pitiless wise by thy close grip, for that he long had 
minished and slain my people. Guilty of death, he 
fell in battle, and now hath a second come, a spoiler 
mighty for mischief ; she is minded to avenge her 
kinsman, and hath carried her vengeance so far that 
it may seem torment of spirit hard to bear to many a 
thane that sorroweth in his soul for his treasure-giver. 
Now the hand lieth helpless that was earnest to thee 
of aught whatsoever that is worth the having. 

" I have heard the dwellers in the land, my people, 
they that hold sway in their halls, say they have seen 
such twain as these, mighty prowlers along the borders 
of the homes of men, making the moors their own. 
One of these was, so far as they might most carefully 
judge, in form like a woman : the other misbegotten 
one trod in man's shape the path of exile, save that 
he was greater in size than any man. Him in days 
of old the earth-dwellers named Grendel : they knew 
not his father, or whether any lurking demons were 
ever born to him. They take as theirs a country hid- 
den away, the wolf-fells and windy nesses, perilous 
fen-ways, where the flood of the mountain-stream 
goeth downward under the earth beneath the mists of 
the forelands. It is not far hence, measured in miles, 
where the mere standeth. Rime-covered thickets hang 
over it ; a wood fast-rooted shadoweth the waters. 
There may a fearful marvel be seen each night, a fire 
in the flood. None liveth ever so wise of the children 
of men that knoweth the bottom. Though the rover 
of the heath, the stag, strong with his antlers, may 
seek, hunted from afar, that thick wood, he will yield 
up his spirit first, his life on its brink, ere he will hide 
away his head within it. The place is not goodly. 

38 BEOWULF [1372-1407] 

Thence riseth a coil of waters dark to the clouds, when 
the wind stirreth up foul weather till the air groweth 
thick and the heavens make outcry. 

" Now, again, is help in thee alone. That country 
thou know'st not yet, the fearsome place, where thou 
mayest find the much-sinning one. Seek it if thou 
darest. I shall requite thee for the strife with gifts 
for the keeping, with old-time treasures and twisted 
gold, as I did before, shouldst thou come thence 

XXI. How Hrothgar and Beowulf went to the 
mere in which the monster dwelt. 

Beowulf spake, the son of Ecgtheow : " Sorrow not, 
man of wise mind ! It is better one should avenge his 
friend than mourn for him long. Each of us must 
abide life's end in this world. Let him that may, win 
fame ere death ; that shall be best thereafter for a 
warrior, when life is no more. 

" Arise, warden of the realm, let us go quickly to 
look upon the track of Grendel's fellow. I promise 
thee he shall not flee to shelter, not in earth's bosom, 
or mountain forest, or ocean's bed, go where he will. 
For this daj r have patience in thine every woe, as I 
ween thou wilt." 

Then the old man sprang up and gave thanks to 
God, the mighty Lord, for that the hero had spoken. 
A horse then, a steed with plaited mane, was bridled 
for Hrothgar. The wise king went in state ; with 
him fared forth a foot-band of shield-bearers. The 
tracks were plain to see far along the forest-ways, the 
path she hath taken across the levels ; straight went 
she over the murky moor, bare away, with his soul 
gone from him, the best of Hrothgar's kindred that 
with him governed the homestead. 

P408-1M4] BEOWULF 39 

Then over the steep stone-fells and narrow tracks, 
in close by-paths, an unknown way, by beetling cliffs 
and many a nicker's lair, went the son of athelings. 
With a few wise-minded men, he went before to see 
the place, till he found suddenly the mountain trees, 
the joyless wood, leaning over the hoar rock. The 
water stood beneath, blood-stained and troubled. It 
was for all the Danes, for the friends of the Seyldings, 
a sorrow of soul to bear, grief to many a thane and 
every earl, when they came upon the head of iEschere 
on the sea-cliff. The flood boiled, as the people gazed 
upon it, with blood and hot gore. 

The horn at times sang its stirring lay of battle. 
All the band sat them down. They saw in the water 
many of the dragon kind, strange sea-drakes making 
trial of the surge, likewise on the jutting rocks the 
nickers lying, that oft at hour of dawn make foray 
grief-giving on the sail-road, and dragons and wild 
beasts beside. In bitter wrath and swollen with fury, 
these hasted away ; they heard the call, the war-born 
singing. The prince of the Geats severed the life 
from one with a bow, as it strove with the sea, so 
that the stout battle-shaft went home to its life. 
Slower was it then in swimming the deep, seeing death 
had gripped it. Then quickly was it hemmed in 
closely in the waves with boar-spears keen-barbed, 
assailed with shrewd thrusts, and drawn on the head- 
land, the wondrous wave-lifter. The men gazed on 
the fearsome unfriendly thing. 

Then Beowulf put on him his earl's armor : in no 
wise had he misgivings for his life. His war-lmrnie 
hand-woven, broad and cunningly adorned, that could 
well shield his body so battle-grip might not harm his 
breast or the foe's shrewd clasp his life, must needs 

40 BEOWULF [1444-1483] 

make trial of the deeps. But his head the white hel- 
met guarded, that must mingle with the sea-depths, 
seek the coil of the surges, well-dight as it was with 
tveasure-work, bound with lordly chains, as the weapon- 
smith wrought it in far-off days, decked it with won- 
ders, set it with swine-shapes, that thereafter brand 
nor battle blade might bite it. Not least of these 
great helps was that which Hrothgar's spokesman had 
loaned him in his need ; the hafted sword was named 
Hrunting. . It was one of the chiefest of old-time 
treasures. Its edge was iron, dyed with poison-twigs, 
hai'dened with blood ; never in battle did it betray 
any that clasped it in hand, durst tread the ways of 
terror, the meeting-place of the foe. That was not 
the first time it should do a deed of prowess. Surely 
the son of Ecglaf in the might of his strength kept 
not thought of what he before spake, drunken with 
wine, when he lent that weapon to a warrior better 
with the sword than he. He durst not himself hazai'd 
his life beneath the waves, striving to do a warrior's 
duty : thereby he forfeited the honor, the acclaims of 
prowess. Not so was it with the other, after he had 
arrayed himself for the strife. 

XXII. How Beowulf sought out and fought with 
the monster. 

Beowulf spake, the son of Ecgtheow: " Keep thou 
now in mind, great son of Healfdene, wise prince, 
freehanded friend of men, now I am ready for my 
venture, that of which we already have spoken, that, 
should I for thy need be shorn of life, thou would st 
ever be to me, gone hence away, in the place of a 
father. Be thou a guardian to my thanes, my close 
comrades, if the strife take me. Likewise send the 
treasures thou gavest me, dear Hrotkgar,to Hygelac; 

[1484-1520] BEOWULF 41 

then may the lord of the Geats, the son of Hrethel, 
know by the gold and see, when he looketh on the 
treasure, that I found a giver of rings goodly in 
manly virtues, had joy of him whilst I might. And 
do thou let Hunferth, warrior famed afar, have his 
precious war-sword with its tough edge, handed down 
from old. I shall win fame for myself with Hrunting, 
or death shall take me." 

After these words the prince of the Weder-Geats 
hasted in his valor, would in no wise await an answer; 
the coil of the waters laid hold of the warrior. It was 
a day's while ere he might see the bottom-level. Soon 
she, that, ravenous for food, grim and greedy, had held 
for half a hundred winters the stretches of the flood, 
found that some one of men was there from above 
searching out the home of beings not man-like. She 
laid hold then upon him, seized him in her terrible 
claws. His hale body she hurt not thereby : his mail 
without shielded him round, so she might not, with her 
loathly fingers, reach through his war-coat, the linked 
battle-sark. The sea-wolf, when she came to the bot- 
tom, bare him then, the ring-giving prince, to her 
home, in such wise he might not, brave as he was, 
wield his weapons, though, because of it, many strange 
beings pressed him close in the deep, many a sea-beast 
with its fighting-tushes brake his battle-sark, harried 
their troubler. 

Then the earl was aware he was in one knows not 
what fearsome hall, where no water might harm him 
aught, or the quick grip of the flood touch him, because 
of the roofed hall. He saw the light of fire, a flashing 
flare brightly shining. The worthy one looked then 
on the she-wolE of the sea-bottom, the mighty water- 
wife. The full strength of onset he gave with his 

42 BEOWULF [1520-1556] 

battle-axe, his hand held not back from the stroke, so 
that on her head the ring-decked blade sang out its 
greedy war-song. The foe found then that the battle- 
gleamer would not bite, or harm her life, for its edge 
betrayed the prince in his need. Erstwhile had it 
gone through many a close encounter, cloven oft the 
helm and battle-mail of the doomed ; for the first time 
then did the dear treasure lay down its glory. Still 
was the kinsman of Hygelac, mindful of proud deeds, 
of one thought, and in no wise lost courage. In wrath 
the warrior threw aside the chased sword, strong and 
steel-edged, set with jewels, that it lay on the earth ; 
he trusted to his strength, to the might of his hand- 
grip. So must a man do when he thinketh to reach 
in battle enduring fame ; he careth naught for his life. 
Then the lord of the War-Geats — he shrank not at 
all from the strife — seized Grendel's mother by the 
shoulders. Strong in battle he hurled his life's foe, 
for that he was swollen with wrath, so she fell to the 
ground. Quickly she paid him back his dues to his 
hand in savage clinchings, and laid hold upon him. 
Spent in spirit, the fighter on foot, strongest of war- 
riors, tripped so he fell. Then she threw herself on 
the stranger in her hall, and drew her dagger broad 
and bright-edged ■ — she thought to avenge her son, 
her only child. His woven breast-mail lay on his 
shoulder ; it shielded his life, withstood the in-thrust 
of point and blade. Then had the son of Ecgtheow, 
foremost fighter of the Geats, gone to his death be- 
neath the broad deeps, had not his battle-burnie, the 
stout battle-mesh, given him help, and Holy God, the 
Wise Loi'd, Ruler of the Heavens, held sway over 
victory in battle, awarded it aright. Readily there- 
after he found his feet. 

[1557-1591] BEOWULF 43 

XXIII. How Beowulf slew the mounter, and re- 
turned with GrendeVs head. 

He saw then among the war-gear a blade oft vic- 
torious, an old sword, of the eotens, doughty of edge, 
one prized by warriors; it was the choicest of weapons, 
save that it was greater than any other man might 
bear out to the battle-play, good and brave to see, the 
work of giants. The warrior of the Scyldings seized 
it by its chain-bound hilt. Raging and battle-fierce, 
he drew the ring-marked blade, and despairing of life 
smote so wrathfully that the hard edge gripped her 
by the neck, brake the bone-rings ; the sword went 
clean through her fated body, and she fell to the 

. The sword was bloody ; the hero gloried in his 
deed. The fire flamed forth ; light stood within 
there, even as when the candle of the sky shineth 
brightly from heaven. He looked about the dwelling, 
turned him then to the wall. The thane of Hygelac, 
wrathful and steadfast of thought, raised the hard 
weapon by the hilt. The edge was not useless to the 
warrior, for he was minded to requite Grendel speedily 
for the many onslaughts he had made on the West- 
Danes far oftener than a single time, when he slew 
Hygelac's hearth-comrades in their sleep, ate fifteen 
men as they slept of the Dane-folk, and bare off as 
many more, a loathly spoil. Beowulf, relentless war- 
rior, so far paid Grendel his clues for that, that he 
now saw him lying on his bed, battle-weary and life- 
less, in such wise as the strife in Iieorot had scathed 
him. The corse sprang far when it underwent a blow 
after death, a hard sword-stroke, and Beowulf cut off 
the head. 

Soon the men of wise thought, who with Hrothgar 

44 BEOWULF [1591-1G26] 

looked on the water, saw that the swirl of the wave 
was all mingled with blood, that the flood was stained 
with it. The white-haired old men spake together of 
the goodly atheling, how they looked not he should 
come again, glorying in victory, to seek their mighty 
prince, for, because of the blood, it seemed to many 
that the sea-wolf had slain him. Then came the ninth 
hour of the day. The brave Scyldings left the cliff ; 
the gold-giving friend of men went him homeward. 
The strangers sat there, sick at heart, and stared on 
the mere. They wished and yet trusted not, to see 
their dear lord's self. 

Then the war-brand, the sword, began, because of 
the monster's blood, to fall away in battle-icicles ; a 
marvel was it how it all melted likest to ice, when 
the Father, that holdeth sway over times and seasons, 
freeth the bonds of the frost, unwindeth the flood's 
fetters. He is the true Lord. 

The chief of the Weder-Geats took no more of the 
treasure-holdings in the dwelling, though he saw many 
there, but only the head, and with it, the sword's hilt, 
brave with gold ; the sword had already melted, its 
chased blade burned wholly, so hot was the blood, so 
poisonous the demon of strange kind, that met her 
death there in the hall. 

Soon was he swimming, that had borne erstwhile 
the battle-shock of the foe. He dove up through the 
water. The moil of the waves was all cleansed, the 
wide domains where the strange demon had yielded 
up her life's day and this world that passeth. 

The safeguard of seafarers, the strong of heart, 
came swimming then to land ; he joyed in his sea- 
spoil, the mighty burden lie had with him. Then 
went they to him, his chosen band of thanes ; God 

[1636-1662] BEOWULF 45 

they thanked, had joy of their lord, for that it was 
given them to see him safe. Speedily then the helmet 
and burnie of the unfaltering one were loosed. The 
pool, the water beneath the clouds, stained with the 
blood of slaughter, grew still. 

Forth thence they fared by the foot-paths, joyful 
of heart. The men measured the earth-way, the well- 
known road, bold as kings. The head they hare from 
the sea-cliff with toil that was heavy for any of them, 
great of courage though they were ; four it took to 
bear Grendel's head with labor on the shaft of death 
to the gold-hall, till to the hall came faring forthwith 
the fourteen Geats, picked men brave in battle. 
Their liege-lord together with them trod boldly in the 
midst of them the meadow-stretches. 

Then the foremost of the thanes, the man brave of 
deed, exalted in glory, the warrior hold in strife, 
came in to greet Hrothgar. (i rondel's head, grisly 
to behold, was borne into the hall, where the men were 
drinking before the earls and the lady as well. The 
men looked on that sight strange to see. 

XXIV, XXV. How Beowulf told of the fight, and 
was praised and counselled by Hrothgar ; of the feast- 
ing, and hov) on the morrow the Geats prepared to 
leave the land of the Danes. 

Beowulf spake, the son of Ecgtheow : "Lo, with 
joy we have brought thee, son of Healfdene, lord of 
the Scyldings, in token of glory, the sea-spoil thou here 
beholdest. Not easily came I forth with my life, haz- 
arded with sore hardship the toils of war beneath the 
waters. Almost had the strife been ended, save that 
God shielded me. Naught might I achieve with Hrunt- 
ing in the strife, good as that weapon is, but the Ruler 
of Men vouchsafed it me to see hanging on the wall 

46 BEOWULF [1662-16981 

an old sword, noble and mighty — f most oft is He guide 
to the friendless) — so that I drew the weapon. Then 
I slew in the struggle the guardians of the hall, for 
the chance was given me. The battle-blade then, the 
chased sword, was burned to naught, when the blood 
sprang forth, hottest of battle-gore ; I bare away thence 
the hilt from my foes, avenged in fitting wise their 
evil deeds and the Danes' death-fall. I promise thee, 
therefore, thou niayest in Heorot sleep free from care 
with thy fellowship of warriors, and every thane of thy 
people likewise, young and old — that thou needest 
not, lord of the Seyldings, have dread of death-peril 
for them on this hand, for thine earls, as thou didst 
ere this." Then the golden hilt, the work of giants 
long ago, was given into the hand of the old prince, 
the white-haired battle-leader. After the overthrow 
of the devilish ones, it fell, the work of marvellous 
smiths, into the keeping of the Danes' lord ; when 
the grim-hearted one, God's foe, with murder upon 
him, gave up the world, and his mother also, it fell in 
this wise into the keeping of the best of world-kings, 
between the seas, of those that in Scedenig parted gifts 
of gold. 

Hrothgar spake, looked on the hilt, the old heir- 
loom, on which was written the beginning of that 
far-off strife, when the flood, the streaming ocean, 
slew the giant kind- — they had borne themselves law- 
lessly. The people were estranged from the Eternal 
Lord ; the Wielder, therefore, gave them their re- 
quital through the whelming of the waters. So was 
it duly lined in rimed staves on the guard of gleaming 
gold, set down and told for them for whom that sword 
was wrought, choicest of blades, with twisted hilt and 
decked with dragon-shapes. 

[1698-1732] BEOWULF '47 

Then the wise one spake, the son of Healfdene ,• all 
were silent : " That, lo, may he say that worketh truth 
and right among the people (the old warden of the 
realm keepeth all in mind from of old) that this earl 
was born of a nobler race. Thy fame is exalted, my 
friend Beowulf, among every people throughout the 
wide ways. Wholly with quietness dost thou main- 
tain it, thy might with wisdom of heart. I shall fulfil 
my troth to thee, that we spake of, ere now, together. 
Thou shalt be in every wise a comfort, long-estab- 
lished, to thy people, a help to the warriors. Heremod 
was not so to the children of Ecgwela, the Honor- 
Scyldings. He grew not up to do as they would have 
him, but to cause and deadly undoing for 
the Dane-folk. In the swelling anger of his heart 
he slew his table-companions, they that stood at his 
shoulder, till he wont alone, the mighty prince, from 
the joys of men. Though the mighty God raised him 
up and set him forth in the joys of dominion and gifts 
of strength above other men, none the less there grew 
in his mind and soul a blood-greed. He gave out 
rings to the Danes not at all as befitted his high 
estate, lived joyless, and so suffered stress for his 
vengeful doing's, a fate long-enduring; at the hands of 
his people. Do thou learn by this. Lay hold upon 
manly worth. As one wise in years, I have framed 
thee this discourse. 

"A marvel it is how mighty God in the greatness of 
His soul bestoweth wise judgment on mankind, land- 
holdings and earlship; He hath rule over all. Whiles 
letteth He the heart's thought of a man of high race 
turn to having and holding, giveth him the joys of 
this world in his country, a fastness-city of men to 
keep, so contriveth for him that he ruleth parts of the 

48 BEOWULF- [1732-1768] 

earth, a wide l-ealm, such that ho may not know the 
bounds thereof. He dwelleth in fatness ; sickness nor 
age turn him aside no whit; preying sorrow darken-, 
eth not his soul, nor doth strife show itself anywhere, 
nor warring hate, but all the world wendeth to his will. 
He knoweth not the worse, till that within him a deal 
of overweening pride groweth and waxeth, while the 
warder sleepeth, shepherd of the soul. Too fast is 
that sleep, bound round with troubles ; very nigh is 
the slayer that in grievous wise shooteth with his bow. 
Then is he smitten in the breast, with his helmet upon 
him, by a bitter shaft. 

" He cannot guard him from the devious strange 
biddings of the Accursed Fiend. That seemeth him 
too little which he hath long held. Perverse of mind, 
he is greedy, giveth not at all out of pride the rings 
of plate-gold, and he forgetteth and taketh no heed 
of the fate to come, because of the deal of blessings 
God, the King of Glory, hath already given him. 
Therefore, at the end, it happeneth that the fleeting 
body sinketh and falleth, marked for death. Another 
taketh over the earl's former holdings, who dealeth 
out treasure without repining, and shall take no 
thought for fear. 

" Guard thee from death-dealing malice, dear Beo- 
wulf, best of men, and choose the better, the eternal 
gain. Give not thyself to over-pride, O warrior re- 
nowned. Now is the flower of thy strength for one 
while ; soon shall it be hereafter that sickness or the 
sword's edge, foe's clutch or flood's whelm, the sword's 
grip or the spear's flight, or grievous old age, shall 
part thee from thy strength, or the brightness of thine 
eyes shall fail and grow dark ; straightway shall it be, 
princely one, that death shall overcome thee. 

[1769-1807] BEOWULF 49 

" Half a hundred years beneath the clouds I so 
ruled the Ring-Danes and warded them in war with 
spear and sword from many a people through this 
mid-earth, that I counted rnyself without a foe 'neatk 
the stretch of the heaven. Behold ! a change came to 
ny land, grief after joy, when Grendel, the old-time 
foe, became my invader ; ceaselessly from that trou- 
bling I suffered exceeding sorrow of spirit. Thanks 
be to God, the Eternal Lord, that I have bided in life 
so long that I may look with mine eyes on this head, 
gory from the sword. 

" Go now to thy mead-bench, honored warrior ; 
taste of the joy of the feast ; treasures full many shall 
be between us twain, when morn shall come." 

The Geat was glad at heart and went therewith to 
find his place, as the wise one had bidden. Then 
anew, in fair wise, was the feast spread for them, 
mighty in valor, sitting in the hall. The helm of 
night darkened down dusky over the bandsmen. The 
press of warriors all arose ; the white-haired prince, 
the old Scylding, desired to seek his bed. The Geat, 
the valiant shield-warrior, listed well, past the telling, 
to rest him. Soon the hall-thane, who took care with 
courteous observance for the hero's every need, such 
as in that day seafarers should have, led him forth, 
come from afar, worn with his venture. Then the 
great-hearted one took his rest. 

The hall lifted itself broad and brave with gold. 
The guest slept within till the black raven, blithe of 
heart, heralded the joy of heaven. Then the bright 
sun came gliding over the plain. The warsmen hasted, 
the athelings were eager to fare again to their people. 
He who had come to them, the large of heart, would 
take ship far thence. The brave one bade the son of 

50 BEOWULF [1807-1847] 

Ecglaf bear off Hrunting, bade him take liis sword, 
his beloved blade, spake him thanks for its lending, 
said he accounted it a good war-friend, of might in 
battle, belied not in words the sword's edge. That 
was a man great of soul ! And when the warriors were 
in forwardness for the journey, with their gear made 
ready, the atheling dear to the Danes, the hero brave 
in the fight, went to the high-seat, where the other was, 
and greeted Hrothgar. 

XXVI. How Beowulf took leave of Hrothgar, and 
was given rich gifts, and departed with his men. 

Beowulf spake, the son of Eegtheow : " We, sea- 
faring ones, come from afar, wish now to say that we 
mean now to make our way to Hygelac. We have 
been well entreated here in all man could wish ; thou 
hast dealt well by us. If then on earth, O Lord of 
Men, I may earn more of thy heart's love by deeds 
of war than I yet have done, I shall straightway be 
ready. Should I learn over the stretches of the flood 
that thy neighbors burden thee with dread, as they 
that hate thee at times have clone, I shall bring a 
thousand thanes, warriors, to thine help. I know of 
Hygelac, Lord of the Geat-folk, the people's herd, 
that though he be young he will uphold me in word 
and deed that I may do thee full honor and bear to 
thine aid the spear's shaft, the stay of his strength, 
when need of men shall be thine. If, furthermore, 
Hrethric, son of the king, take service at the court of 
the Geats, he shall find many friends there ; far-off 
lands are better to seek by him that may trust in 

Hrothgar spake to him in answer : " Now hath the 
wise Lord sent these sayings into thy soul. Never 
heard I man so young in years counsel more wisely. 

P848-1882] BEOWULF 51 

Thou art strong in might and safe in thought, and 
wise in thy sayings. I account it likely that if it hap 
the spear, the fierce battle-sword, sickness, or the steel, 
taketh away the son of Hrethel, thy prince, the peo- 
ple's herd, and thou hast thy life, that the Sea-Geats 
will have no man better to choose for king, for trea- 
sure-warden of the warriors, if thou art willing to rule 
the realm of thy kinsfolk. Thy brave spirit liketh me, 
passing well, ever tho more, dear Beowulf. Thou hast 
so wrought that peace shall be between the Geat-folk 
and the Spear-Danes, and strife be at rest, the guileful 
onslaughts they have erstwhile undergone. Whilst I 
rule this wide realm, treasure shall be in common ; 
greeting shall many a one send another by gifts across 
the gannet's bath ; the ringed ship shall bring over 
the sea offerings and tokens of lore. I know the peo- 
ples are fast wrought together both toward foe and 
toward friend, void of reproach in every wise as the 
way was of old." 

Then, thereto, the son of Healfdene, shield of earls, 
gave him in the hall twelve treasures, bade him make 
his way with these gifts safe and sound to his dear 
people, and come again speedily. The king, then, 
goodly of birth, Lord of the Soyldings, kissed the best 
of thanes and clasped him about the neck. The tears 
of the white-haired king fell ; old and wise, two things 
he might look for, but of these the second more eagerly, 
that they might yet again see one another, mighty in 
counsel. The man was so dear to him, that he might 
not bear the tumult of his heart, for in his breast, 
fast in the bonds of thought, deep-hidden yearning 
for the dear warrior burned throughout his blood. 

Beowulf, gold-proud warrior, trod thence over the 
grassy earth, rejoicing in his treasure. The sea-goer 

52 BEOWULF [1882-1013] 

awaited her master, as she rode at anchor. Oft then, 
as they went, was the gift of Hrothgav spoken of with 
praise. That was a king in all things blameless, till 
old age, that hath scathed many a man, took from him 
the joys of might. 

XXVII. How Beowulf sailed back to 7iis own 
country, and bare his treasure to the palace of his 
lord, Hygelac ; of Hygelac and of his gracious queen, 
Hygd, and how different, in former days, Thrytho 
was from her. 

Then came the press of liegemen, passing brave, to 
the flood ; they bare their ringed mail, their linked 
■battle-sarks. The land- warden marked the earls' re- 
turn, as he did before ; he greeted not the strangers 
with fierce words from the cliff's crest, but rode to- 
ward them and said that the Weder-folk, the spoilers 
in their gleaming mail, were welcome as they fared 
to their ship. The seaworthy craft, the ring-prowed 
craft on the sand, was laden then with battle-mail, 
with the horses and treasure. The mast rose high 
above the holdings from Hrothgar's hoard. He gave 
the ship's keeper a sword mounted with gold such that 
thereafter on the mead-benches he was held the more 
worthy because of that treasure, that sword handed 
clown from of old. 

The hero went him into his ship to cleave the deep 
water, and left the land of the Danes. Then to the 
mast was a sea-cloth, a sail, made fast by its rope. 
The sea-wood creaked. The wind over the waves did 
not turn the ship from her course. The sea-going 
craft fared on, floated forth foamy-necked over the 
waves, the framed ship over the sea-currents, till they 
might see the cliffs of Greatland, the well-known fore- 
lands. The keel, urged by the wind, ran up and stood 

[1913-1958] BEOWULF 53 

fast on the land. Straightway the harbor-guard was 
at the beach ready, who, already, for a long time, from 
the shore had gazed out afar, eager to see the dear 
ones. He bound the broad-bosomed ship to the sand 
with anchored cables, that the might of the waves 
might not carry away the goodly timber. 

Then Beowulf bade bear up the wealth of princes, 
the trappings and the plates of gold. It was not far 
thence for them to go to .find Hygelac, the son of 
Hrethel, where he dwelleth in his homestead, he with 
his comrades near the sea-wall. The house was pass- 
ing good, its king in the high hall truly princely, and 
Hygd, daughter of Hagreth, very young in years, wise, 
and well-thriven, though she had lived years but few 
within the city gates. Not close-minded was she, 
none the less, or too chary in giving of gifts, of trea- 
sure-holdings, to the Geat-folk. 

Thrytho, dread queen of the people, brought with her fierceness 
of soul and dire evil-doing. None so brave of the dear com- 
rades, save her lord, durst undertake to look upon her with his 
eyes by day, save he might count on bonds of death made ready 
for him, twisted by the hand ; quickly forthwith after his seiz- 
ing was the sword resolved on, that the deadly blade might shew 
it forth, make clear his murderous end. That is not a queenly 
practice for a woman to use, matchless though she be, that a 
weaver of peace should take away the life of a clear warrior on 
charge of misdoing. Hemming's kinsman speedily put an end 
to this. Men, as they drank the ale, told further, that she wrought 
less of destruction among the people and vengeful onslaughts, 
so soon as she was given, decked with gold, to the young war- 
rior of proud birth, when she, by her father's behest, sought, 
journeying over the fallow flood, the hall of Offa, where, hence- 
forward through life, she took exceeding joy in the life fate gave 
her on the throne, renowned for her goodness, cherished a great 
love for the prince of men, best, as I have heard tell, between 
the seas, of all mankind, the race widespread. Therefore Offa, 
warrior brave with the spear, was held in honor far and wide 

•54 BEOWULF [1958-1994] 

for his gifts and his deeds in battle. With wisdom he ruled his 
realm ; and of him was Eomo, kinsman of Hemming, grandson of 
Garmund, mighty in battle, born to be of help to warriors. 

XXVII I-XXX. How Beowulf told Hygelac of 
his adventure. 

Then went the strong one over the sands, himself 
with his fellowship, treacling the sea-beach, the wide 
shores. The sun, the candle of the world, shone forth ••' 
hastening from the south. They pushed on their way, 
went forward stoutly, to where they heard that the 
shield of earls, the slayer of Ongentheow, the good 
king, was parting rings in the city. Beowulf's return 
was made known speedily to Hygelac, that the safe- 
guard of warriors, his shield-comrade, had come 
there, still living, to the palace, hale of body from the 
battle-play to the court. Quickly, as the king bade, 
was the hall set in readiness within for the way-faring 

Then he that had come forth from the strife sat 
beside the prince himself, kinsman beside kinsman, 
after that his liege lord had greeted the true man in 
courteous wise with heartfelt words. The daughter 
of Hsereth went through the hall for the mead-serving; 
she loved the people, bare the wine-cup to the hands 
of the Geats. Hygelac began to question his com- 
rades in fair wise in the high hall ; eagerness fretted 
him to know what the adventures of the Sea-Geats 
had been: "How befell it thee in thy faring, dear 
Beowulf, when thou hadst sudden thought to seek 
battle afar, strife in Heorot, over the salt sea? But 
didst thou better in any measure the woe far-rumored 
of the famed prince Hrothgar ? I brooded because of 
it in grief of heart with surging sorrow, nor might I 
believe in this venture of my dear follower. Long 

[1994-2034] BEOWULF 55 

time I prayed thee not to address the deadly foe, hut let 
the Spear-Danes themselves come to war with Grendel. 
Thanks I utter to God, that I may see thee safe." 

Beowulf spake, the son of Eegtheow : " Known of 
many men, Lord Hygelac, is the far-famed meeting, 
what passage of warfare there was between Grendel 
and me, in the place where he wrought the Vietor- 
Scyldings sorrow far too much. I avenged it all so 
that none of Grendel's kin that longest shall live of 
his loathly race, hegirt by the fenland, need boast of 
that twilight-outcry. 

" I first there betook mo to greet Hrothgar in the 
ring-hall. Soon, when lie knew my purpose, the mighty 
son of Healfdene awarded me a seat with his own son. 
Joyous was the company ; never saw I my life long 
'neath the hollow of heaven greater joy among those 
sitting at mead in hall. Whiles, the great queen, 
peace-bringer between peoples, went through all the 
hall, heartened the youths, and often bestowed a 
circlet on a warrior, ere she went to her seat. Whiles, 
the daughter of Hrothgar bare the ale-beaker before 
the press of warriors to the earls in turn ; Freawaru 
I heard them name her that sat in the hall, when she 
gave the embossed treasure-cup to the warriors. She 
hath been plighted, young and decked with gold, to 
the gracious son of Froda. It hath seemed to the 
Scyldings' friend, the keeper of the realm, and he 
counteth the counsel good, that he through this maid 
may set at rest a deal of death-feuds and strifes. Oft 
and again have they given troth-pledges after the fall 
of that people ; for a short space only will the death- 
spear be lowered, though the bride be goodly. 

"Therefore it may ill please the prince of the Heathobards 
and every thane of the people, when he goeth with his bride into 


56 BEOWULF [2034-2078] 

the hall, that his warrior-hosts should do guest's service for a 
princeling of the Dane-folk ; on him gleam forth bequests of 
their ancient ones, hard and ring-decked, the Heathobards' own, 
so long as they might wield their weapons, till that they led 
away to an evil end their dear comrades and their own lives in 
the sword-pla}'. Then, as he seeth the treasure, there speaketh 
out at the beer-drinking an old spearsman that keepeth it in mind 
all of it, how their men were slain by the spear — his heart is 
fierce within him. In grief of heart he beginneth to try the 
temper of the young warriors, through the thought of their 
breasts, and to waken war-havoc, so speaketh this word : ' Canst 
thou, my friend, recall the sword, the blade beloved, thy father 
beneath his battle-mask bare to the fight on his last foray when 
the Danes slew him, where, after the warriors' fall, when hope 
of requital failed us, the bold Scyldings held the field of slaugh- 
ter? Now, from among those murderers, some youth or other 
goeth his way into the hall, making a show of his trappings, 
vaunteth of that murder, and weareth the treasures thou shouldest 
rightly have rule of.' 

"Thus every moment he spurreth and remindeth with wound- 
ing words, till time cometh that the bride's thane, paying debt 
of life for his father's deeds, sleepeth in his blood through the 
sword's bite. The other fleetli him thence with his life ; he 
knoweth the land full well. On both sides then the oath-taking 
of the earls is broken, and thereafter a deadly hatred welleth up 
in Ingeld, and his love for his wife groweth cooler through the 
surgings of his sorrow. I deem not therefore the good-will of the 
Heathobards towards the Danes, or their part in the peace, free 
from peril of faithlessness, or their friendship a lasting one. 

" I must go on, O ring-giver, to speak once more of 
Grendel, that thou mayest know in full what outcome 
there was thereafter of the strife, hand to hand, of 
warriors. When the jewel of heaven had glided away 
o'er the plains, the stranger-one, the grisly night-foe, 
came in his wrath to seek us out where we watched, 
well and strong, o'er the hall. There was a deadly strife 
and life-ending there for the fated Hondscio ; he fell 
first, the girded warrior ; him, famed thane of our 

[2078-2119] BEOWULF 57 

kindred, Grendel slew with his teeth, swallowed down 
wholly the corse of the man we loved. Never the sooner 
for that was the bloody-fanged slayer, with havoc in 
heart, minded to go forth again empty-handed from 
the treasure-hall, but, fierce in his might, me he tried 
and gripped me with his ready claw. His glove hung, 
wide and wondrous, made fast with shrewd fastenings ; 
it was all made in skilful wise with devils' wiles and 
of dragons' skin. His thought was, bold doer of evil, to 
put me therein, all blameless, and many a one beside; 
he might not so, when I stood upright in my wrath. 
Too long is it to tell how I paid the spoiler of the 
people his dues for each of his evils.. There did I, my 
lord, do honor to thy people by my deeds. He fled 
away, had part for a while in the joys of life, though 
his hand kept his track in Heorot, and thence in abject- 
ness, anguished in spirit, fell to the mere-bottom. 

"For that deadly strife the friend of the Scyldings 
(when morning came and we had sat us to the feast) 
made me bounteous requital with plates of gold and 
many a treasure. There was song and mirth-making. 
The hoary Scylding, after questioning me oft, told of 
far-off days ; whiles, the battle-famed prince woke the 
harp's joy, the pleasure-wood ; whiles, he framed a lay 
true and sorrowful ; whiles, the great-hearted king told 
in fitting wise some wondrous story ; or at times again 
the white-haired warrior, in the bondage of age, be-, 
gan to mourn his youth and strength in battle ; his 
heart swelled within him when he, in years so old, 
took thought of their number. Thus the day long we 
took our pleasure, till another night came to the chil- 
dren of men. Soon then thereafter was Grendel's 
. mother ready to wreak vengeance for her hurt, fared 
forth in her sorrow ; death, and the war-hate of the 

68 BEOWULF [211&-21B2] 

Weders, had taken away her son. The grisly wife 
avenged her child ; in her might she killed a man — life 
went forth there from .ZEsehere, the old .councillor. 
Nor might the Dane-folk with fire burn him, death- 
weary, when morning came, nor lift on the pyre hiin 
they loved ; she bare off the corse in her fiendish 
clasp down under the mountain-stream. That was the 
sorest of the sorrows that long had beset Hrothgar, 
leader of his people. The prince, in grief of soul, ad- 
jured me then by thy life to achieve earlship in the 
moil of the waters, to risk my life and to win renown ; 
he vowed me my meed for it. Then, as is known far 
and wide, I sought out the grim and grisly warden of 
the flood's depth. Hand there was locked in hand for 
a space. The flood welled with blood, and in that hall 
in the deeps with a matchless blade I hewed off the 
head of Grendel's mother. Not easily bare I my life 
away — not yet was I marked for death — but there- 
after the shield of earls, the son of Healfdene, bestowed 
on me many a treasure." 

XXXI. How Beowulf gave Hrothgar s gifts to 
Hygelac and received gifts in return ; how he suc- 
ceeded to the throne of Hygelac and Ileardred, and 
hoiv a dragon, keeper of a treasure-hoard in his king- 
dom, took vengeance for a theft from it. 

" Even thus lived the people's king in due regard 
of right; in no wise did I lose my just due, the meed 
of my might, for he gave me treasures, did the son of 
Healfdene, even such as I myself might wish. These I 
desire to bring and to tender them thee with joy, O 
king of men. Still hath every good thing its begin- 
ning with thee ; save thee I have few close kinsmen, 
O Hygelac." 

He bade them bring in the head-crest in shape of a 

[2152-2189] BEOWULF 59 

boar, the helmet high uplifted in battle, the gray 
bnrnie, the war-sword wondrously wrought, and his 
tale framed after: "To nie the wise prinoe Hrothgar 
gave this battle-gear, laid on me this one behest that 
first of all I should tell thee his friendship. He said 
that king Heorogar had it long, the prince of the 
Soyldings, yet this breast-mail he would not give to 
his own son, the brave Heoroweard, dear though he 
was to him. Have thy full joy of it all." 

I heard that four horses, apple-fallow, wholly alike, 
went the same way as the trappings ; honor lie showed 
to Hygelae with horses and treasures. So must a kins- 
man do and not weave a net of cunning for the other, or 
with hidden craft devise the death of his close comrade. 
Faithful indeed was his nephew to Hygelae, the strong 
in battle, and each was mindful for the other's weal. 

I heard that he gave to Hygd the collar, the won- 
drous treasure, marvellously wrought, that Wealh- 
theow, a king's daughter, gave him, and three horses 
also, trim of build and shining beneath the saddle. 
From that time, after the gift of the collar, was her 
breast well bedecked. 

In such wise the warrior renowned, the son of 
Ecgtheow, bare him bravely through worthy deeds, 
lived lawfully, slew not at all, when drunken, his 
hearth-companions. Not ruthless was he of soul, but, 
bold in strife, kept ward with his utmost might of the 
generous gift that God had given him. Long had he 
been scorned, so that the children of the Geats held 
him unworthy, nor would the lord of the battle-hosts 
pay him much regard on the mead-bench. They 
thought surely he was slack, a laggard atheling. 
There came a change for him, well thriven in honors, 
from every despite. 

60 BEOWULF [2189- 

Tben the shield of earls, the king stout in battle, 
bade fetch in Hrethel's sword, mounted in gold ; there 
was not then among the Geats a better treasure in 
the like of a sword. 1 Ie laid it on Beowulf's lap, and 
gave him seven thousand pieces, a hall, and a prince's 
high-seat. Both alike had land by birth-fee in the 
people's holding, a home, and an ancestral right ; to 
the other beside was the broad kingdom, and in that 
was the better man. 

That he attained afterward, in days to come, through 
shocks of battle, after Ilygelac fell and the war-swords 
had slain 1 leardred beneath his shield's shelter, then 
when the War-Seyl rings, stout warriors, sought him 
out among his victor-folk and overthrew the nephew 
of Ilereric in war; thereafter was it the broad realm 
fell into the hand of Beowulf. He ruled it well for 
fifty years ■ — old then was the king, warden of the land 
from long past — till that a dragon began to be master- 
ful on dark nights, that on the high heath kept watch 
of a hoard in a lofty stone barrow. Below lay a path 
not known to men. Therein went some man or other, 
laid hold eagerly on the heathen hoard, took with his 
hand a cup gleaming with gold ; he gave it not back 
though its keeper had been defrauded, as he slept, 
with thievish craft. The people, the dwellers in the 
towns, learned how that he was angered thereby. 

XXXII. Of the dragon's hoard and whence it 
came, and of his wrath at the loss of his cup. 

Not with intent and of his own will did this thane 
of some one of the sons of men, that did him this 
grievous injury, seek out the mighty dragon-hoard, but 
because of sore stress, in need of shelter, a man driven 
by guilt, he fled from blows of anger and betook him- 

[2189-2264] BEOWULF 61 

self therein. Soon it befell that hideous terror came 
upon the stranger in that dwelling, yet the wretched 
one, even as the horror seized him, caught sight of the 

There were many such olden treasures in the earth- 
house, just as some man, taking heedful care of the 
mighty heritage of his high kindred, had hid them 
there, his dear treasures, in clays gone by. Death had 
taken his kinsfolk all away at an earlier time, and the 
one that of the warrior-host of that people still then 
longest held on his way, went sorrowing for his friends, 
yet trusted for such length of years that he might 
enjoy for a little while that wealth long-treasured. A 
barrow stood fully ready nigh the sea-waves on the 
moor, newly made on the foreland, closed fast by sure 
devices. The guardian of the rings bare within it 
there the lordly treasure, the heap hard to carry of 
plate-gold, and spake in few words : " Hold thou now, 
O earth, now that warriors may not, this wealth of 
earls. Behold, in thee at the first did good men find 
it. Death in battle, dread evil, hath taken off every 
man of my people that hath left this life ; they had 
looked on the joys of the mead-hall. None have I that 
may wield sword, or burnish the gold-decked vessel or 
the drinking-cup of price ; the warrior host is gone 
elsewhither. The hard helmet, bedight with its gold, 
must be spoiled of its platings ; they sleep that bur- 
nished it, whose part it was to make ready the masks 
of war. And the battle-gear likewise, that withstood 
in strife, midst the crash of shields, the bite of the 
steel, shall crumble with the warrior. The ring-meshed 
burnie no longer may fare far with the war-prince at 
the warrior's side. Joy of the harp is not, or delight 
of the glee-wood ; the good hawk swingeth not through 

62 BEOWULF [2264-2300] 

the hall, nor doth the swift steed paw the court of the 
stronghold. Death that despoileth hath sent forth 
many a one of living kind." Thus, sorrowful of 
heart, he made lament with grieving, he, left solitary, 
for them all — wept, reft of gladness, till the flood of 
death laid hold on his heart. 

The old twilight-spoiler, the evil naked dragon, that 
flaming seeketh out the barrows and flieth by night 
enfolded in fire, found the joy-giving hoard standing 
open. Him the earth-dwellers dread exceedingly. 
He must needs seek out a hoard in the earth, where, 
old in years, he wateheth the heathen gold ; no whit is 
he the better for it. 

Thus three hundred years the spoiler of the people 
held in the earth a treasure-house, mighty in strength, 
till that a certain man made him wrathful of heart, bare 
away a cup of gold to his prince, prayed his lord for 
a bond of peace. Thus was the hoard despoiled, some 
part of the ring-treasure carried away, and his boon 
granted to the man in his need. His lord looked for 
the first time on that work of men of far-off days. 

When the dragon awoke, strife was newly kindled. 
He snuffed along the rock and, stout of heart, came 
on the foot-tracks of his foe ; in his furtive craft the 
man had gone too far, too near the dragon's head. So 
may one not marked for death, whom the grace of the 
Wielder stayeth, come forth full readily from his woes 
and the path of exile. The treasure-warden sought 
eagerly along the ground, and would fain find the man 
that had brought this harm on him in his sleep. Hot 
and savage of heart, he went often all about the mound 
without, but no man was there in that waste place. 
Yet had he J03' in the coming of battle and the toils 
of war. Whiles, he went into the mound and sought 

[2300-2332] BEOWULF 63 

the treasure-cnp ; soon knew he for sure some man had 
found out bis gold and his noble treasure. Scarce 
waited tbe treasure-keeper till evening came ; angered 
#as be then, tbe barrow-warden ; the loatbly one was 
of mind to take payment with fire for his precious 
cup. Then was tbe day gone, as tbe dragon desired. 
No longer would he bide within wall, but fared forth 
witb flaming, girt with fire. A fearful thing was the 
feud's beginning for tbe people of tbe land, even as 
it was ended speedily in the hurt that befell their 

XXXIII. Of the dragon' 's vengeance and Beo* 
widf's resolve to encounter him. 

Then the stranger-one began to spew forth gledes 
and burn tbe bright homesteads ; tbe glare of the 
burning struck terror into men ; the loatbly flyer 
through the air was minded to leave naught there 
alive. The dragon's might was seen far and wide, 
the fell intent of the instant foe near and far, bow 
tbe war-spoiler hated and brought low the Great-folk. 
He shot back, ere daybreak, to bis board, to bis lordly 
hall hidden from finding. The dwellers in tbe land 
he bad beset with flame, with fire and burning. He 
trusted to his barrow, bis war-craft and wall : the hope 
deceived him. 

Speedily then was tbe terror of it made known to 
Beowulf for truth, in that bis own homestead, fairest 
of bouses, the gift-seat of the Geats, had been con- 
sumed in the surging flame. Grief of heart it was to 
the good king, tbe greatest of sorrows. Tbe wise man 
deemed that he had angered bitterly the Ruler, the 
Eternal Lord, against the ancient law. His breast 
swelled within him with dark thoughts as was not the 
way with him. 

64 BEOWULF [2333-2370} 

The fire-drake with his flames had laid in ashes the 
stronghold, the people's fastness, on its island without. 
Therefore the war-king, prince of the Geats, planned 
vengeance upon him. The safeguard of warriors, lord 
of earls, hade he made for him a battle-shield of mar- 
vellous kind, all of iron ; lie knew readily wood of 
the forest might not help him, linden-wood against 
flame. The atheling passing worthy must needs abide 
the close of his lift; in the world, and the dragon 
with him, though lie had kept for long his wealth of 

The lord of rings scorned then to seek the far-flier 
with a host, a large army ; he dreaded not the strife 
for himself, nor made he much of the dragon's skill 
in battle, of his strength and might, because that 
erstwhile, hazarding peril, he had come through many 
an onset, brunt of battle, after he, a hero rich in vic- 
tory, had cleansed Hrothgar's hall, and in strife grap' 
pled Grendel's kinsfellow of that loathly race. 

That was not the least of close encounters, in which 
they slew Hygelac, son of Hrethel, when in Friesland, 
in storm of battle, the king of the Geats, gracious 
lord of his people, died of the sword-drink, struck 
down by the war-blade. Beowulf came thence by his 
own might ; he made use of his swimming. He had, 
he alone, thirty suits of armor when he went to the 
sea. In no wise needed the Hetwaras, who had borne 
out their shields against him, be boastful of their war- 
craft, for few came away afterward from the mighty 
hero to seek their homes. 

The son of Ecgtheow, hapless and lonely, swam 
back, at that time, over the stretches of the sea to his 
people again. There Hygd proffered him the trea- 
sure and the kingdom, the rings, and the king's seat ; 

[2371-2404] BEOWULF 65 

she trusted not her son that he would know how to 
hold his ancestral seats against stranger folk, seeing 
Hygelac was dead. Yet not for all that might they 
iri their need in any wise prevail upon the atheling to 
be Heardred's lord or take on himself the kingdom, 
but be upheld him among the people with friendly 
counsel, and in kindly wise through the regard he 
showed him, till that be came of age ami ruled the 
Weder-Geats. Outlawed men sought him from over- 
seas, the sons of Ohthere ; they had rebelled against 
the helm of the Scylflngs, a prince renowned, the best 
of the sea-kings that gave out treasure in the Swedish 
realm. Of that came Heardred's end. The hapless 
son of Hygelac came by his death-wound through the 
stroke of the sword, and the son of Ongentheow went 
him back to seek his home, when Heardred lay dead, 
and let Beowulf hold the king's seat and rule the 
Geats. He was a good king ! 

XXXIV. How Beowulf took revenge for Hear- 
dred ; how Tie sought out the d?'ago?i , s lair, and told 
of Herebeald and Hcethcyn. 

In after days he took thought of requital for the 
downfall of bis lord ; he was a friend to the hapless 
Eadgils, aided him across the broad sea with his host, 
his war-craft and weapons, when in after time the son 
of Ohthere took vengeance on Onela for his chill 
paths of sorrow, and robbed the king of his life. 
Thus the son of Ecgtheow had come safe from each 
strife, each hazardous battle and deed of prowess, till 
this one day that he must do battle against the dragon. 

One of twelve, the lord of the Geats, angered ex- 
ceedingly, went to look on the fire-drake. He had 
learned in what wise the feud toward men, the deadly 
strife, had arisen. The wondrous treasure-cup had 

66 BEOWULF [2404-2440] 

come to his lap through the hand of the finder. He 
that had brought about the strife's beginning was the 
thirteenth man in the company ; held captive, sorrow- 
ful at heart, he must needs go thence with them to 
point out the place. Against his will he went where 
he knew that earth-hull to be, a burial-place beneath 
the ground, nigh the surge of the sea and the moil 
of the waters, that within was full of jewels and woven 
gold-work. Its fearful guardian, a ready wager of 
war, had held from of old his golden treasure beneath 
the earth. 1 1 was no easy bargain for any man to go 
in there. 

Then the king, stout in strife, the gold-friend of 
the Geats, sat him on the foreland, whilst he bude his 
hearth-comrades farewell. His spirit was sad, flicker- 
ing within him and ready for death. Wyrd was very 
near, that must assail the old man, seek out the trea- 
sure of his soul, part asunder life from body. Not 
long, then, was the life of the atheling enclosed in flesh. 

Beowulf spake, the son of Ecgtheow : " In my 
youth I came safe from many a shock of battle and 
time of strife : I mind me of all. I was seven years 
old when the prince of treasure, the gracious lord of 
his jDeople, King Hrethel, took me at my father's 
hands, held me and had me, gave me treasure and nur- 
ture, mindful of our kinship. I was no whit less loved 
by him during life as his man in hall than any of his 
sons, Herebeald and Hsethcyn, or mine own Hygelac. 
In unfitting wise was the death-bed strewn for the 
eldest of them by a kinsman's deeds, when Hsethcyn 
struck him down, his dear lord, with an arrow from 
his bow of horn ; the mark he missed and shot his 
kinsman, one brother another with a bloody shaft. 
That was an onslaught gold might not atone for, done 

[2441-2476] BEOWULF 67 

of evil design, harrowing to the heart. J5e that as it 
may, the atheling must lose his life unavenged. So 
also is it sorrowful for an old man to live to see his 
young son ride upon the gallows-tree; then he gives 
voice to his grief in words, his song of sorrow, when 
his son hangeth for a joy to the ravens, and he may 
not help him, do aught for him, old and burdened 
with years. Ever is he reminded each morn of his 
son's going hence ; nor hath he wish to await another 
heir in his house, since one hath by dint of death 
learned the lesson of his deeds. Overborne by sorrow, 
he seeth in his son's house the wine-hall left wasted, 
a resting-place for winds, bereft of its joy ; horseman 
and warrior sleep in the grave ; sound of harp is not, 
nor joy in its courts as once there was. 

XXXV. Of Beowulf's meeting with the dragon 
after closing his discourse. 

"Then he goeth to his sleeping-place, and, lonely, 
singeth there his song of sorrow for the one he hath 
lost ; all he hath, his lands and his dwelling-place, 
hath seemed too large for him alone. 

" So, likewise, the helm of the Weders bare a heart 
swelling with sorrow for Herebeald ; he might no 
whit avenge the feud on the slaj^er, nor yet spend his 
hate in deeds of enmity on the warrior, though he 
was not dear to him. Then, for the grief his heart 
caused him, he gave up the joys of men and chose the 
light of God ; when he went from life, he left to his 
sons, as one cloth that hath wealth, his land and folk- 
cities. Then was there hatred and strife betwixt the 
Swedes and the Geats, warfare over the wide water 
and fierce clash of war-hosts, after Hrethel died, till 
that the sons of Ongentheow were forward and keen in 
the struggle, would not keep peace over-seas, but oft 

68 BEOWULF [2470-2615] 

made forays in direful wise about Hreosnabeorh. 
This feud and these deeds of evil my kinsfolk avenged, 
as was known of all, though another paid for it with 
his life, a hard bargain ; it was a fatal war for Hseth- 
cyn, king of the Geats. Then in the morning, as I 
heard tell, one brother took vengeance on the other's 
slayer, when Ongentheow met Eofor. The war-hel- 
met split apart ; the old Scylfing fell livid beneath 
the stroke ; Eofor's hand kept mind of feuds enough, 
it held not back from the death-blow. I then, in 
that strife, as it was given me to do, repaid Hygelac 
with my gleaming sword for the treasures he had 
bestowed on me ; he gave over to me land, a home- 
stead, and the joy of its holding. He had no need to 
be forced to seek from the Gif ths, or the Spear-Danes, 
or in the Swedish lands, a worse warrior, and buy him 
for a price. Ever would I be in advance in his host, 
alone at the front, aiid so shall I, while life last, make 
fight, so long as the sword endureth, that oft early 
and late hath served me, ever since I, before the war- 
rior-hosts, with my hand slew Dseghrefn, fore-fighter 
of the Hugs. In no wise might he bring trappings 
and breast-deckings to the Frisian king, but fell, the 
keeper of the standard, the atheling in his might, in 
our encounter. The sword's edge was not his slayer, 
but the battle-grip brake his ribs and his heart's 
beating. Now must the blade's edge, the hand, and 
the stout sword, wage war for the treasure." 

Beowulf spake, gave forth word of vaunting for the 
last time : " In my youth I came safe from many a 
battle ; yet, if the fell spoiler seek me out from his 
earth-hall, will I, the old warden of my people, seek the 
strife, do deeds worthy praise." 

He greeted then for the last time each of his men, 

[251(5-2556] BEOWULF 69 

he, the bold helmet-bearer, his clear comrades : " I 
would bear no sword or other weapon against the 
dragon, even as I once did with Grendel, wist 1 how I 
might else make good my vaunt against the monster. 
But I may look for hot battle-fire there, for reek and 
for poison ; for this cause I have upon me shield and 
burnie. Not a foot's length will I give back from the 
keeper of the barrow, but it shall befall us in fight at 
the wall, as Wyrd, the ruler of all men, may grant. I 
am keen of heart so that I forego boasting against the 
flying foe. Await ye, ye men in your war-gear, clad in 
your burnies, whether of us twain may fare the better 
of our wounds after our fight to the death. It is no 
venture for you, nor is it meet for any man to use his 
strength against the monster, achieve earlship, save for 
me alone. By my might shall I gain the gold, or bat- 
tle, life's peril, shall take your lord." 

Then the brave warrior, strong beneath his helmet, 
rose with his shield, bore his battle-sark beneath the 
stony steeps, trusted in the strength of a single man ; 
such is not the way of a coward. He that, goodly in 
manly virtue, had come forth from full many a strife 
and shock of battle, when the foot-hands meet, beheld 
by the wall an arch of stone standing and a stream 
breaking out thence from the barrow. The stream's 
flood was hot with battle-fires ; the hero might not 
endure anywhile, without burning, the stretch below, 
nigh the hoard, because of the dragon's fire. 

Then the prince of the Weder-Geats, for that he 
was angered, let a word go forth from his breast. The 
strong of heart stormed ; his voice came sounding in, 
battle-clear, under the hoar stone. Hate was roused ; 
the treasure-warden was ware of the hero's speech ; 
there was no more time to seek for peace. 

70 BEOWULF [2B6G-2595T 

First there came forth from the stone the breath of 
the monster, the hot fuming of battle. The earth re- 
sounded. The warrior beneath the barrow, the lord of 
the Geats, swung round his battle-shield against the 
grisly foe. Then was the heart of the coiling one made 
eager to seek the strife. The good war-king had ere. 
then drawn his sword, handed down from of old, not 
slow of edge. Terror came to those plotters of harm, 
each of the other. The ruler o'er friends stood, stead- 
fast of heart, against his broad shield whilst the dragon 
coiled quickly ; in his war-gear he waited. 

Then came moving on the fiery one, bowed together, 
hastening to his fate. Inasmuch as Wyrd had not 
dealt the great king triumph in the strife, his shield 
guarded well life and body less long than his desire 
to be let conquer at that time there in the day's prime 
had looked for. The Lord of the Geats lifted up his 
hand and struck the fell foe with his mighty sword, so 
the shining edge weakened on the bone, bit with less 
might than the folk-king, encompassed with evils, had 
need of. Savage of heart then was the warden of the 
barrow because of the battle-stroke, and cast forth 
deadly fire ; the fierce flamings of it sprang far and 
wide. The friend of the Geats was not to boast a far- 
famed victory. His naked war-sword, his blade passing 
good, had weakened in the strife as it ought not. No 
easy journey was it for the son of Ecgtheow to leave 
the earth-plain ; unwilling he must make his home in 
a dwelling-place elsewhere, for so must every man lay 
aside the days that pass from him. 

It was not long before the fighters met together 
once more. The keeper of the hoard took heart ; his 
breast rose once again with his breathing. The prince, 
he that erstwhile had ruled his people, suffered straits, 

[2596-2628] BEOWULF 71 

hemmed in by the flames. Not at all did his own 
close comrades, sons of atlielings, stand about him in 
press, showing courage in battle, but betook them to 
the woods to save their lives. The soul of but one 
of them swelled with sorrow ; naught can ever set 
aside kinship in sight of him that judge th aright. 

XXXVI. How Wiglaf reproached his comrades, 
and went to Beowulf's aid, and how Beowulf was 

Wiglaf was he named, the son of Weohstan, prince 
of the Scylfings, kinsman of iElfhere, a loved shield- 
warrior. He saw his lord beneath the battle-mask 
laboring from the heat. He bethought him then 
of all the honors the prince had in former days be- 
stowed upon him, the wealthy homestead of the Wseg- 
mundings and every folkright his father owned. He 
might not then hold back, grasped his shield, the yel- 
low linden, with his hand, and drew his old sword. 
That sword was left among men by Eanmund, son of 
Ohthere, whom, as a friendless exile, Weohstan slew 
in the strife with the edge of his war-brand, and bare 
to his kinsman his shining helm, his ring-knit burnie, 
the old sword of eotens Onela had given him, war- 
weeds of a comrade, his battle-gear ready for foray. 
Weohstan spake not of the feud, though he had felled 
the son of the brother of Onela. He kept the trap- 
pings many a year, the sword and burnie, till his son 
Wiglaf might achieve earlship as his father had erst- 
while done. He gave then to Wiglaf among the 
Geats every sort of battle-gear in countless number, 
and went forth, being old, on his way hence. 

That was the first time the young warrior had need 
to take part with his clear lord in the storm of battle. 
His soul melted not away, nor did the sword be* 

72 EEO 1VULF [2628-26GS] 

queathed by his kinsman weaken in the strife ; this 
the dragon learned when they met together. 

Wiglaf spake many a righteous word, for his spirit 
was sorrowful, and said to his comrades: "I mind 
me, the time we drank the mead, we vowed then to our 
lord in the beer-hall, who gave us these rings, that we 
would requite him for our war-gear, the helmets and 
swords of temper, if this-like need should befall him. 
He chose us for this venture of his own will from his 
host, roused us to deeds of glory, and gave me these 
treasures, because he held us to be good wagers of 
war with the spear, brave wearers of helmet, even 
though he, our lord, guardian of his people, thought 
to achieve this deed of might alone, for that he among 
all men hath wrought the most of feats of prowess 
and daring deeds. 

" Now is the day come that our liege-lord hath need 
of the might of good warriors. Let us go to him, 
help our leader in battle, whilst the heat endure, the 
grim terror of the flame. God kuoweth of me' I would 
much liefer the fire should enfold my body with that 
of my giver^of gold- Unmeet it seemeth me we should 
bear our shields back home save we first fell the 
might of the foe, and guard the life of the prince of 
the Weders. I trow well it were not his due, long 
owed him, that he alone of the flower of the Geats 
should bear the trouble and sink in the strife. Sword 
and helm, burnie and shield, shall be one between us." 

He went then through the slaughter-reek, bore his 
helmet to his lord's aid : " Dear Beowulf, do all well, 
even as thou didst vow aforetime in thy youth, that 
thou wouldst not, yet living, let thy glory fall awaj r . 
Now must thou, steadfast atheling, famed for thy deeds, 
guard thy life with all thy might. I shall aid thee." 

[2009-2703] BEOWULF 73 

After these words the dragon, the foe fell and fear- 
ful, came in wrath a second time, bedight with surges 
of flame, to seek the men, his loathing. The shield 
of the young spearsman burned to the boss in the 
waves of fire, and his burnie might yield him no aid. 
But the young retainer went him sjieedily under his 
kinsman's shield, for his own was consumed utterly 
by the fire. Then once more the war-king bethought 
him of the meeds of glory, and in the might of his 
strength struck with his war-sword, so that it drave 
into the dragon's head, urged by hate. Nsegling was 
broken ; the sword of Beowulf, old and gray-hued, 
betrayed him in the strife ; it was not given him that 
edge of cteel might help him in the battle. His hand 
was too strong, as I have heard tell, trying overmuch 
any sword by its blow ; when he bore to the fight a 
weapon wondrous hard, no whit was he the better 
for it. 

Then the spoiler of the people, the fell fire-drake, was 
of mind a third time for the strife, rushed, hot and 
battle-grim, upon the valiant one, when he gave him ■< 
ground, and with his bitter fangs took in all the throat 
of the hero. Beowulf was bloodied with his life-blood ; 
the blood welled forth in waves. 

XXXVII. How the dragon was slain, and how 
Beowulf hade the treasure be brought to him. 

I heard tell that then in the folk-king's need his 
earl gave proof of lasting prowess, of the strength and 
boldness born in him. He heeded not the head of the 
dragon, albeit the brave man's hand was burned in 
aiding his kinsman, so he might, the mailed warrior, 
smite the fell foe a little lower, in such wise the shining 
sword, decked with gold, sank in, and the fire thereafter 
began to fail. Then the king came to himself once 

74 BEOWULF [2703-2743] 

more, and drew the war-dagger, bitter and sharp for 
battle, he wore on his burnie. The helm of the 
Weders cut the dragon in two in the middle. They 
felled the foe, their prowess east forth his life, and 
they both, kinsman athelings, had overthrown him. 
Such a man should a warrior, a retainer, be in time 
of need. 

That was the last triumphant hour, through his own 
deed, of the king's work in this world. The wound 
the earth-dragon before had given him began then to 
burn and swell. 1 Ie soon found that a dire evil, poison 
within, was rising in his breast. The atheling, wise of 
thought, went him then to sit on a seat by the wall; 
he looked on the work of giants, how the stone-arches, 
firm upon their pillars, upheld within the ever-enduring 
earth-hall. His retainer, worthy beyond telling, laved 
then with his hands with water the king far-famed, his 
own dear lovd, bloodstained and spent with battle, and 
loosed his helmet. 

Beowulf brake forth in speech, spake despite his hurt, 
his livid death-wound ; he knew well he had had his 
day's while and the pleasures of earth, that all his tale 
of days was past now and death ever so near : " Now 
would I give my war-weeds to my son, had but any 
heir belonging to my body been given to follow me. 
I have ruled the people fifty years ; no folk-king was 
there of them that dwelt about me durst touch me 
with his sword or cow me through terror. I bided at 
home the hours of destiny, guarded well mine own, 
sought not feuds with guile, swore not many an oath 
unjustly. Therefore, though sick now unto death with 
my wounds, I may have joy of it all, in that the Ruler 
of Men may not blame me for murder of kinsmen, 
when life leaveth my body. 

[2743.-2777] BEOWULF 


" Now go thou quickly, dear Wiglaf , to look on the 
hoard under the hoar rock, now that the worm lieth 
slain, sleepeth sore wounded, bereft of his treasure. 
Be in haste now, so I may see the old wealth-holdings, 
the treasure of gold, and behold with gladness the 
bright jewels curiously set ; so may I, because of this 
wealth of treasure, the softlier yield up my life and 
lordship I have held for long." 

XXXVIII. Of Beowulf's death after seeing the 

Then, as I heard tell, the son of Weohstan hearkened 
quickly after these words the bidding of his wounded 
lord, sick from the strife, and bore his ring-mesh, his 
woven battle-sark, under the roof of the barrow. The 
valorous thane, rejoicing in victory, when he had passed 
by the seat, saw many a jewel of price, gold glittering 
strewn on the ground, wondrous things on the wall, 
and the den of dragon, the old twilight-flier, — jars 
standing, vessels of men of far-off clays, with no one 
to burnish them, stripped of their deckings. Many a 
helmet was there, old and rusted, and many an arm- 
ring, woven with shrewd skill. Store of treasure, gold 
in the earth, may easily make any one of mankind 
over-proud, let him hide it that will. Likewise he saw 
a standard all of gold hanging high over the hoard, 
most wondrous of works, weft by skilled craft. A 
light came from it, so he might see the floor and look 
over the treasures. No sign of the dragon was there, 
for the sword's edge had taken him away. 

I hea.rd tell that one man then despoiled the hoard 
within the barrow, the ancient handiwork of giants, 
and filled his bosom as he willed with wine-cups and 
platters ; the standard also, brightest of beacons, he 
took away. The sword of the old king with its edge 

76 BEOWULF [2777-2816] 

of iron had ere then given its hurt to him that long 
time had been keeper of the treasure and had waged at 
midnight the fire's terror, flooding forth, in deadly wise, 
hot before the hoard, till that he died a bloody death. 

The messenger was in haste ; he was eager to go 
back, spurred on by the treasures. Desire fretted 
him, the high-sonlcd youth, to know if he should find 
the lord of the W odors, so sorely sick, alive still in 
the place where he had left him. Then, with the 
treasures, he found the mighty prince, his lord, bleed- 
ing, at his life's end. Once more he began to cast 
water upon him, till the word's point brake through 
the hidden thought of the breast. 

Beowulf spake ; the old man in his sorrow looked 
on the gold: "For these treasures I here behold I 
give thanks in words to the Lord of All, the King of 
Glory, the Eternal Lord, for that it is given me ere 
the day of death to win the like for my people. Now 
have I trafficked the laying down of my life, nigh, spent, 
for this hoard of treasure. Look ye now to my peo- 
ple's needs , I maybe here no longer. Bid the battle- 
famed warriors build me a fair mound after the 
burning on the sea-headland. It shall lift itself, for 
a reminder to my people, high on the Shale's Ness, 
that seafarers hereafter, that drive their deep ships 
afar o'er the mist of the floods, shall call it Beowulf's 

The brave-hearted prince took from his neck a 
golden circlet, gave to his thane, the young spears- 
man, his gold-decked helm, his ring, and his burnie, 
and bade him have his joy of them ; " Thou art the 
last of the Wregmundings, our kindred ; Wyrd hath 
taken away all my kinsmen, the earls in their might 
to their fate. I must after them." 

*-'.>*, . 

[2817-2854] BEOWULF 77 

That was the last thought of the old king's heart, 
ere he made choice of the pyre, the hot death-surges. 
His soul went forth from his bosom to find the award 
of the steadfast in right. 

[XXXIX]. How Wiglaf spoke his scorn of his 

Then it went sorely indeed with the youth to see 
his dearest one laid on ihe earth at his life's end meet- 
ing stress so sore. His slayer lay there likewise, the 
grisly earth-dragon, bereft of life, overborne by his 
spoiling. The dragon with his twisting coils might 
no longer rule his treasure-hoards, for the edge of the 
steel, the hard handiwork of hammers, nicked in bat- 
tle, had taken him hence, so that the far-flier fell to 
the ground, stilled hy his wounds, nigh to his treasure- 
house ; in no wise might he sweep sporting through 
the air at midnight, make show of himself, proud of 
his treasure-holdings, for he fell to earth through the 
handiwork of the leader in battle. Truly, as I have 
heard tell, it profiteth men but few, through might- 
possessing and daring in every deed, for one to make 
onset against a poison-breathing spoiler, or lay hand 
to his treasure-hail, should he find the warden waking 
and housed in his barrow. A deal of lordly treasure 
was paid for by Beowulf through his death. Each 
had come to the end of this life that passeth. 

It was not long then that the laggards in war gave 
up the wood, the traitorous weaklings, ten of them to- 
gether, that durst not erstwhile make play with their 
spears in their liege-lord's dire need, but who bare 
now, with shamed faces, their shields and war-weeds, 
where the old man lay. They looked on Wiglaf. 
Wearied he sat, he, the retainer, at his lord's shoul- 
der, and tried to rouse him with water. No whit it 

78 BEOWULF [2861-2801] 

availed him ; eagerly as he might wish it, he might not 
keep life in his leader, nor turn one whit the will of 
the Ruler. God's doom was law in ruling the deeds 
of every man, as now still it doth. 

To the youth then was a grim answer easy to find 
for those whose courage before that had left them. 
Wiglaf spake, the son of Weohstan ; sorrowful of 
heart, the hero looked on them he scorned : " This, 
lo ! may he say that hath mind to speak the truth, 
that the lord ye owned, who gave ye the treasures, the 
war-gear ye stand in, then, when he on the ale-bench 
oft bestowed on those sitting in the hall, he the king 
on his thanes, helmets and burnies such as were the 
goodliest he might find far or near, that he then, first 
and last, in wretched wise threw away that battle- 
gear, so soon as warfare should befall him. Surely 
not at all had the folk-king need to boast of his com- 
rades in battle — yet God, the Giv er of Victory, willed 
it for him that he all alone, when he had need of 
prowess, should approve himself with the sword's 
edge. I was able to give him but little aid in guard- 
ing his life in the struggle, and yet, howsoever beyond 
my fiower, I did make beginning to help my kinsman. 
Ever, when I, struck the deadly foe with my sword, 
was he worse for it, and the fire surged less strongly 
from his head. Defenders too few thronged about 
the king when the hour came to him. Now shall tak- 
ing of treasure and gift of swords, every joy you were 
born to, and right of subsistence, fail from your kin- 
dred. Every man of your homesteads shall go void 
of his land-right, after athelings afar hear tell of your 
flight, of your infamous deed. Death is better for 
every earl than a life of dishonor." 

XL. How tidings of Beowulf s death werecarrled 

1 1 


to his people ; of the messenger's forebodings respect- 
ing the Swedes and Frisians, and his recountal of 
the fight at Havens' Wood. 

Then he bade word be given of the battle's toil to 
the fastness up over the sea-cliff, where the band of 
earls, sorrowful of heart, had sat holding their shields 
the day long since morning, looking for one of these 
two, his last day or the home-coming of the dear 
warrior. He who rode up the headland was silent 
touching little of the new tidings, but told them truly 
in hearing of all : " Now is the lord of the Geats, 
the bountiful giver of the Weder-folk, fast in the 
bed of death ; on the resting-place of slaughter he 
abideth by the dragon's doing. Beside him lieth the 
life-queller, sickened by the dagger's thrusts ; with 
his sword he might deal no wound to the monster. 
Wiglaf, the son of Weohstan, sitteth over Beowulf, 
one earl beside the other lying lifeless, holdeth head- 
watch with reverent care for friend and foe. 

" Now is a time of war to be looked for by the people when 
the fall of the king becometh known far and wide to Franks and 
Frisians. The grievous strife with the Hugs was conceived when 
Hygelac came faring with a fleet to the Frisians' land, when 
the Hetware humbled him in battle, speedily attained through 
greater might, that the armed warrior must bow him to his fall. 
He fell in the midst of his fighting-bands ; lie, the leader, gave 
out no treasure to the warriors. The good-will of the Merovin-' 
gian hath ever since been withheld from us. 

" Nor do I look any whit for peace or good-faith from the 
Swede-folk, for it was known far and wide that Ongentheow 
robbed Hrethcyn Hrethling of life nigh Ravens' Wood, when 
in reckless pride the War-Scylflngs first sought the Geat-folk. 
Soon the old father of Ohthere, ancient and terrible in battle, 
gave an answering blow, slew the king skilled in sea-craft, set 
free from captivity his wife, mother of Onela and Ohthere — be 
the old man, his consort, bereft of her gold — and followed then 

80 BEOWULF [2933-2983] 

Ms deadly foes till they might barely flee away to the Ravens' 
Wood, their leader lost. Then with an exceeding host he beset 
those the sword had left, spent with their wounds, oft the night 
long menaeed / that forlorn band with woe, said that in the morn- 
ing he would slay some with the sword's edge, some on the gal- 
lows-tree to be a joy to the birds. Comfort came again to them, 
sorrowful of heart, with the first of the day, so soon as they 
heard Hygelae's horn and ti'iinijx't -<^all, when the good king came 
following along their track with the Mower of his people." 

XLI. Of the outcome of the battle. 
The bloody pathway of Swedes and Goats, the storm of 
slaughter of the fighters, was plain to see far and wide, how 
the one folk and the other together had spurred on the strife. 
Ongentheow, goodly warrior, old and much-sorrowing, went him 
then with his comrades to seek his fastness, and turned him 
toward the heights. He had heard tell of Hygelae's prowess in 
war, his glorious might in battle, and lie trusted not to withstand 
him, to be able to hold back the sea-men, the oeeau-voyagers, or 
to keep his hoard, his children, and wife ; the old man bent him 
back thence to his wall of earth. 

" Chase then was given to the Swede-folk, and their standard 
to Hygelac ; they went forth over the plain of peace, after 
the Hrethlings thronged up to the fastness. The white-haired 
Ongentheow was brought to a halt there by the sword's edge, in 
such wise the folk-king must yield him to the single will of Eofor. 
Wrathfnlly Wulf Wonreding reached for him with his weapon, 
so that the blood from the blow sprang forth from his veins be- 
neath his hair. Nevertheless the old Seylfing was not dismayed, 
but repaid forthwith that death-stroke with a worse return, after 
he, the folk-king, had turned toward him, nor might the swift son 
of Wonred give an answering blow, for the old man had already 
shorn through the helmet on his head so that he must bow him 
blood-stained, and fall to earth ; not as yet was he given over to 
death, for he grew well again, though the wound had laid liola 
on him. Then the doughty thane of Hygelac, when his brother 
was laid low, let his broad blade, the old sword forged by the 
eotens, break, over across the shield's wall, the giant-huge helmet. 
Then Ongentheow, the king, the shepherd of his people, bowed 
him down ; he was hurt to the life. There were many then 
that bound up Eofor's brother, lifted him speedily, when it was 

[2983-3024] BEOWULF 81 

granted them to have command of the battlefield, the while the 
warrior spoiled the other, took from Ongentheow his burnie of 
iron, hard hilted sword, and helmet therewith, bare to Hygelac 
the old man's war-gear. He took the trappings and made Eofor 
fair promise of reward before the people, and likewise fulfilled 
it. The lord of the Geats, the son of Hrethel, when be came to 
his home, repaid Eofor and Wulf for tlieir stress of battle with 
exceeding treasure, gave each of them a hundred thousand 
pieces' worth of land and linked rings, nor durst any man on 
earth make scorn of the reward, seeing they had wrought deeds 
of fame with their swords. And further, of his grace, bo gave 
Eofor his only daughter to wed, to be a pride to his home." 

" This is the feud and the hatred, the mortal strife 
between men, by reason of which, as I foresee, because 
of the fall of their warriors, the Swede-folk, the bold 
Scylfmgs, will seek us out, when they hear that our 
lord is lifeless, he that erstwhile held hoard and realm 
against them that hate us, acted for his people's good, 
or, yet more, did deeds of earlship. 

" Now it is best as soon as may be that we look upon 
our folk-king, where he lies, and bring him, that gave 
us rings, on his way to the pyre. Nor shall a part only 
consume away with the valiant one, for the hoard of 
treasure is there, gold uncounted, dearly bought, and 
even now, at the last, he purchased these rings with 
his own life ; these shall the flame swallow up, the 
fire hide away, nor forsooth shall an earl wear these 
treasures for remembrance, nor fair maid have the 
ring-jewel about her neck, but, sad of heart, reft of 
her gold, oft and not once alone, shall tread the land 
of exile, now that the leader in battle has laid aside 
laughter, revel, and the joys of mirth. Because of this 
shall many a spear, cold in the dawning, be held in 
close clasp, lifted up in the hand ; the sound of the 
harp shall in no wise rouse up the warrior, but the 

82 BEOWULF [3024-305&; 

rdark raven, all alert over the fallen, shall utter his cry 
over and over, and tell the eagle how well he hath 
sped at the feasting, the while with the wolf he de- 
spoiled the slain." Thus it was the bold warrior told 
his hateful tidings ; he told little enough untrue in 
his words or forebodings. 

The band all arose and went in sorrow, with welling 
tears, beneath the Eagles' Ness to look on the sight 
strange to see. They found him who had given them 
rings in former days making his bad of rest lifeless on 
the sand. The last day of the good warrior had come 
in such wise that he, the war-king, the prince of the 
Weders, had died a death to marvel at. First there 
they saw the strange wight, the loathly worm, lying on 
the plain before him. The fire-drake, grim and grisly, 
was scorched with fire ; he was fifty foot-lengths long 
as he lay. Erstwhile by night he had for his own the 
joys of the air, and went him down thereafter to seek 
his den ; now he was fast in death and had made 
last use of his earth-caves. By him stood cups and 
jars ; dishes rested there and costly swords, rusted and 
eaten through, even as they had lain housed there in 
the earth's bosom a thousand years. That inheritance 
exceeding mighty, the gold of men of olden time, had 
then been placed under a spell, so that no man might 
lay hand on the ring-hall, unless God Himself, the true 
King of Victory, Who is man's safeguard, should 
grant it to him He pleased, even such a man as seemed 
to Him meet, to open the hoard. 

XLII. Of Wiglaf's discourse concerning Beowulf, 
of the plundering of the hoards, and the casting of 
the dragon into the sea. 

Then was it plain to see that he who wrongfully 
plundered the treasure therein beneath the wall throve 

[3058-3095] BEO WULF 83 

not in his venture. Its warden first slow some few of 
the folk, and then was the feud fulfilled witli vengeance 
in wrathful wise. Matter for wonder is it in what place 
it shall befall, when an earl, renowned for his prowess, 
shall reach the end of his life's span, when a man may 
no longer dwell in the mead-hall with his kinsfolk. Sa 
was it with Beowulf when he sought the warden of the 
barrow and that shrewd encounter ; of himself he knew 
not in what wise his parting from the world would 
come. The mighty prince who placed the treasure there 
so laid it under a deep curse till Doomsday, that the 
man who should spoil that place should be guilty of 
sin, prisoned in evil places, made fast in helhbonds, 
and punished with plagues. The hero was not eager 
for treasure ; rather had he first looked for the grace 
of the Owner of All. 

Wiglaf spake, the son of Weohstan : " Oft must 
many earls through the act of one man suffer evil, even 
as hath happened to us. We might not make our dear 
lord, shepherd of his people, accept aught of good 
counsel, not to meet the warden of the gold, but to let 
him lie where he had long been, and abide in his 
dwelling-place till the world's end. He held to his 
high destiny. The hoard is ours to see, come to us in 
woeful wise ; too hard was the fate that drew the king 

" I was therein and looked upon it all, on the trea- 
sures in the hall, seeing it was granted me, though 
surely not in friendly wise, and a way allowed me in 
under the earth-wall. With haste I grasped with my 
hands a great and mighty burden of the hoarded trea- 
sure and bare it out hither to my king. He was still 
alive, aware of what passed and having his understand- 
ing. Of full many things spake the old man in his grief, 

84 BEOWULF [3095-3132] 

and bade greet you all, and asked that ye build, because 
of your friend's deeds, on the place where his pyre 
should stand, a barrow lofty, great and memorable, 
even as he was of men the warrior worthiest through 
the wide earth, whilst he might have joy in the wealth 
t>f his cities. 

" Let us now haste to behold a second time and to 
search out the heaped-up treasure, curiously fashioned, 
this marvel that is beneath the wall. I shall guide you 
so ye may see, nigh at hand, rings and broad gold 
enough. Let the bier, looked to straigbtway, be ready 
when we come forth, and then let us bear our lord, 
the one we loved, whore he must long wait him in the 
Almighty's keeping." 

The son of Weohstan, the warsman bold in battle, 
gave order that many of the warriors, such as owned 
dwellings and ruled the folk, be bidden fetch wood for 
the pile from afar to where the king should be burned : 
" Now shall the fire, the dark flame as it waxeth, swal- 
low up the strength of warriors, who oft hath breasted 
the iron shower, when the storm of shafts, sped by the 
string, shot over the shield-wall, and the arrow, spurred 
by its feathering, fulfilled its duty, drave home the 

Speedily the wise son of Woehstan called together 
from the king's following seven of the best thanes, 
and went, as one of eight, beneath the roof of the foe. 
One of the warriors who went before them bare in his 
hand a burning' light. There was no taking of lots as 
to who should spoil that hoard after the men had seen 
any of it resting unguarded and lying at loss in the 
hall ; little did any mourn at bearing thence most 
speedily the precious treasure. They thrust the dragon 
also, the worm, over the sea-;cliff, let the wave take 

[3133-3167] BEOWULF 85 

him, the flood enfold the warden of the treasure. 
Then was the twisted gold, quite beyond reckoning, 
loaded upon a wain, and the atheling was borne, the 
gray battle-prince, to the Whale's Ness. 

XLIII. Of the burning of Beowulf, and the build- 
ing of Beowidfs Barrow, and of their remembering 
him with praise. 

Then the Geat-folk made ready for him a pile, as he 
had prayed them, firmly based on the earth and hung 
with helmets and shields and bright burnies ; with 
grief the warriors laid in the midst of it their great 
prince, their lord beloved. Then began the warriors 
to quicken on the cliff the greatest of death-fires ; the 
wood-smoke rose dark above the pitchy flame, while 
the fire roared, blent with the sound of weeping as 
the turmoil of the wind ebbed, till, hot in the hero's 
breast, it had crumbled the bone-frame. With thoughts 
left void of gladness and with sorrow of heart, they 
made their lament for their liege-lord's death. His 
wife, likewise, in deepest grief, her hair close bound, 
made her song of mourning again and yet again for 
Beowulf — that she foresaw with grievous dread days 
of evil for herself, many a death-fall, terror of battle, 
shame and captivity. 

Heaven swallowed up the smoke. Then the Weder- 
folk built a burial-mound on the cliff that was high 
and broad, seen afar by the seafarer, and they made 
it, the beacon of- the one who was mighty in battle, 
in ten days. They carried a wall about the remains 
of the fire, the goodliest they who were most wise 
might contrive. In the barrow they placed the rings 
and jewels, all the trappings likewise which the men 
of bold heart had taken before from the hoard. They 
let the earth keep the treasures of earls and the gold 

86 BEOWULF [3187-3182] 

He in the ground where it still now abideth, as useless 
to men as it was" aforetime. 

Then about the mound rode the sons of athelings 
brave m battle, twelve in all. They were minded to 
speak their sorrow, lament their king, frame sorrow in 
words and tell of the hero. They praised his earlship 
and did honor to his prowess as best they knew. It is 
meet that a man thus praise his liege-lord in words, 
hold him dear in his heart, when he must forth from 
the body to become as a thing that is naught. 

So the Geat-folk, his hearth-comrades, grieved for 
their lord, said that he was a king like to none other 
in the world, of men the mildest and most gracious to 
men, the most friendly to his people and most eager 
to win praise. 


[References are to pages. Matters sufficiently explained in the 
introduction are not annotated. No comment is made upon the names 
of persons or peoples introduced incidentally into the poem, in cases 
where no information is available except such as would be of interest 
and value only to the special student. Discussion of textual points 
and difficult passages, it need hardly be added, is in general un- 
called for in a volume designed for the general student and reader.'] 

1. Spear-Danes : The Danes, in allusion to their valor, 
wide dominions, or their ruling house (the Scyldings, or descend- 
ants of Scyld), are called Spear-Danes, Ring- or Armor-Danes, 
Bright-Danes ; East-, West-, South-, and North-Danes ; Scyld- 
ings, Victor-Scyldings, etc. They are also called Hrethmen and 
Ingwines. The Geats similarly are called Weders, or Weder- 
Geats, Sea or War-Geats, and the Swedes are called Seylflngs. 

1. In his need: Scyld drifted to the shores of the Danes, as 
a helpless infant in a boat which bare also much treasure ; com- 
pare the later reference on p. 2 (" Truly with no less," etc.). 

1. Beowulf: The son of Scyld, not Beowulf the Geat, the 
hero of the poem. 

1. Scedelands : Also Scedenig ; part of the Danish king- 
dom, situated according to a generally accepted view at the ex- 
treme southern part of the Scandinavian peninsula; here used 
for the whole kingdom. 

3. Saewela's queen : This rendering follows Kluge's re- 
construction of an illegible passage in the manuscript, based 
on a mention in the " Hrolf Saga " of a daughter of Healf- 
dene and her husband. Grein's reconstruction, hitherto adopted 
in default of a better, assumes a daughter Elan, married to 
Ongentheow. Trantmann has suggested the names Yrde and 

3. Mid-earth : The earth, according to Teutonic mythology, 
as surrounded by the sea. 


3. Warring surges ... of loathly flame : The poet re- 
fers to the final destruction of the hall, not described in the 
poem. The hatred and strife referred to is that between Hroth- 
gar and Ingeld : see the note on p. 55 (" Therefore," etc.). 

3. One spake that knew: A Christian interpolation, in- 
appropriate if meant to give the burden of the gleeman's song. 
The poem elsewhere usually discriminates the fact that the 
period of the story is heathen. The attribution to Grendel below 
of a descent from Cain is a notable Christian addition. 

4. Eotens: The giants of Teutonic mythology. The Anglo- 
Saxon word is retained as characteristic, and because of the use, 
just below, of gigantas, giants, a borrowing from the Latin. 

6. The thane of Hygelac: Beowulf the Gcat, the hero of 
the poem. The land of the Geats, the kingdom of Hygelac, is held 
to have been in the southern part of the Scandinavian peninsula, 
north of Scedenig (see note on " Scedelands," p. 1). 

9. The graven boars : Images of boars serving as crests 
on their helmets. 

11. At the shoulder: Literally "before the shoulders;" 
variously interpreted as implying a position before or behind 
the king. 

13. Weland : The famous smith of Teutonic legend. 

13. Wyrd : The Teutonic Fate ; a personification of unalter- 
able destiny. 

24. Between the seas : Probably proverbial like our " East 
or West," " North or South ;" by some considered possibly to 
refer specifically to the North Sea and the Baltic. 

24. Sigemund : The earliest recorded version of this famous 
exploit ; here related of Sigemund, it is later, in the Icelandic 
" Volsunga Saga" and the German " Niebelungenlied," at- 
tributed to Sigurd, or Siegfried, his son, and thence appears, in 
modern literature, in Wagner's opera, the " Siegfried," and in 
William Morris's " Sigurd the Volsung." The different versions 
go back to a common original, and in that original the exploit 
may have belonged to the father, to be afterwards attracted into 
She greater cj'ele concerning his son. 

The independent episodes in the poem are, as in the present 
case, distinguished by the use of smaller type, a helpful device 
first employed by Clark Hall and adopted also by Tinker. 

25. Heat made end of the dragon : Referring, probably, 
to the dragon's own fire, which consumed him after death. The 


poem speaks of the dragon which Beowulf fights as scorched by 
his own fire ; see p. 82. 

25. Heremod : Heremod provides a contrast to Beowulf, as 
Sigemund's bravery affords a parallel. Heremod is later cited 
by Hrothgar in counselling Beowulf; see p. 47. Heremod, in 
place of cherishing his people, oppressed them, owing apparently 
lo a dark and brooding temper, or to madness. Thus he became 
a perilous burden to his people, and in old age, when his strength 
failed, was betrayed into the hands of the Eotens, identified in 
general with the Jutes, and to be distinguished in the poem 
from the eotens, or giants. 

30. Through the sons of Finn : A brief summary of a 
story known to have existed in an epic of some length among the 
Anglo-Saxons from a fragment found in Lambeth Palace (see 
p. iv). This fine fragment runs as follows : — 

"... the gables surely are not burning ? " Spake then the 
king, young in battle : " Day dawneth not from the east, nor 
here doth a dragon fly, nor here are the gables of this hall 
aflame, but they bear forth the boar, the birds of battle sing, 
the gray burnie ringetb, the war-wood maketh clamor, shield 
answereth shaft. Now shinetb the moon, wandering behind the 
clouds; now deeds of woe take their beginning that shall give 
rise to the vengeful hatred of this people. But waken ye now, 
my warriors, have your shields in hand, be forward in the fight, 
be brave." 

Then rose many a thane, well dight with gold, girded on them 
their swords. The lordly warriors Sigeferth and Eaha went then 
to the doors, and drew their swords, and Ordlaf and Guthlaf 
went to be at the other doors, and Hengest himself followed 
in their lead. 

Then Garnef urged Guthere that they should not in the first 
onset bear in harness life so noble to the doors of the hall, now 
the warrior stout in battle was minded to despoil it, but ho 
asked, the warrior bold of heart, before them all in no secret 
wise who held the door : " Sigeferth is my name," said he ; " I 
am prince of the Secges, a freebooter known far and wide. 
Many a sorrow have I lived through and sore encounter ; still is 
assured thee here whatsoever thou thyself wilt seek from me." 

Then at the wall was there din of mortal conflict ; the curved 
shield in the hands of the valiant must needs shatter the bone- 


helm. The hall-floor resounded, till in the fight Garnef, sou of 
Guthlaf, fell first of earth-dwellers there, and about him 
many good men. The raven wheeled on the wing about the 
slain, wandered swart and dusky-gleaming. The flash of the 
swords was as if all Finnesburh were afire. Never heard I tell 
of sixty victor-warriors bearing themselves in strife of warsmen 
more worthily and better, nor ever did swains pay better for the 
sweet mead than did his warrior-folk pay Ilusef . 

Five days they fought in such wise that none of their fellow- 
ship fell; but they held the doors. There went then a wounded 
warrior away, said his burnie was broken, his battle-mail made 
of none avail, and his helmet thrust through as well. Then 
straightway asked him the shepherd of the people how the warriors 
had come forth from their wounds, or which of the youths . . . 

A reconstruction of the story from the version in " Beowulf 
and this fragment is beset with difficulties, the proper translation 
of both being in several places a matter of doubt and the account 
in " Beowulf " merely a rapid outline. Two typical attempts that 
have won some acceptance are as follows. 

Finn, the Frisian, having carried off Hoe's daughter, Hilde- 
burh, is pursued by Hoc, who is killed. Hnfef and Hengest, 
his sons, when grown of age, invade Finn's country seeking re- 
venge, and in the battle which ensues so many are killed on both 
sides that a compact of peace is made. Hnffif has been killed, 
but Hengest, remaining witli his men till the spring, broods on 
revenge and does not go when spring comes. The Frisians, per- 
ceiving his half-formed design, fall upon him at night in the hall 
and, in the attack described in part in the fragment above, slay all 
his men except Guthlac and Oslaf, who escape and return with 
an army, slay Finn, and carry Hildeburh back to her own land. 

The second version is that Finn has married Hildeburh, and 
Hnaef, her brother, is staying with her. A quarrel takes place, 
and Hiuef falls in a night attack (that of the fragment). A 
compact of peace is made, one condition being that the feud is not 
to be spoken of. Hengest, however, secretly designs revenge, and 
with this intent treacherously becomes Finn's liegeman (see the 
note which follows). Later, Guthlac and Oslaf, sent for aid by 
Hengest, return with a fresh body of Danes, Finn is killed, and 
Hildeburh carried away. 

The latter version, in various forms, is now more generally 


accepted, but so many difficult points are involved that it is best 
to consider the whole matter still unsettled. 

31. Thua it was : This passage has been variously inter- 
preted in conjunction with the several attempts which have been 
made to recover the story. In connection with the first of the 
versions above it is construed to mean that Heugest was slain by 
Finn with a sword, Hunlafing, or by Hun (a follower of Finn ; 
the name occurs in " Widsith ") with a sword, Lafing. In con- 
nection with the 'second version, it is interpreted to mean that 
Hengest through craft did not refuse to become Finn's liegeman, 
when (as a ceremonial act) Finn laid Hunlafing (his sword) on 
his breast, or when Hun (as above), acting for Finn, laid Lafing 
(a sword) on his breast. 

32. As yet they were at peace : The story implied here 
is not known. The nephew is Hrothulf. 

33. The collar of the Brosings : The Brisinga men of the 
Eddas, or jewelled collar of the goddess Freyja. Hama is known 
in Germanic legend as Heime, but not this story. Eormeuric 
is the great Hermanric of history, king of the Ostrogoths. 

33. Hygelac ... on his last foray : Hygelac's foray 
against the Frisians ; see p. viii. 

45. XXIV, XXV. The 25th division of the poem, marked 
in the manuscript at line 1740, begins apparently in the middle 
of a sentence (" till that within him a deal of overweening 
pride," etc. ; see p. 48), and the two divisions are here, accord- 
ingly, run together. 

53. Thrytho : Introduced as a contrast to Hygd. Jealous 
pride and haughtiness, leading to morbid suspicions, with a cruel 
temper, caused her to order the death of certain of her father's 
(or husband's) followers, till (as another or further story tells) a 
happy marriage (possibly her second) wrought a change in her. 

54. XXVIII-XXX : The 29th and 30th divisions are not 
marked. A capital letter appears at 1. 2039, where there is 
apparently no break. 

65. Oft and again ... be goodly: Kluge's interpretation; 
the passage might also read " after the prince's fall," possibly 
with reference to the death of Froda, Ingeld's father, in battle 
with the Danes. The whole passage offers difficulty. A cur- 
rent reading, dependent upon a different emendation, runs, 
" Often and not seldom, in any place, after a prince's fall, is the 
death-spear lowered, though the bride be goodly," a gnomic 



statement followed by Beowulf's forecast of the issue in this 
special case. Klnge's reading offers less difficulty. After the 
overthrow of the Heathobards, peace has been preserved only by 
continual renewal of the treaty between the two peoples, and the 
marriage will assure its continuance but for a short time. 

55. Therefore it may ill please : The poet here endows 
Beowulf with prophetic foresight in order to introduce into the 
poem the story of the results of Freawaru's marriage to Ingekl, 
which were known, no doubt, in a separate story. In place of 
bringing to an end the feud between the Danes and the Heatho- 
bards, the marriage must lead to a renewal of strife, owing to 
the anger of the Heathobards at seeing one of the bride's re- 
tainers decked in armor won in the fight from one of their num- 
ber. This retainer is killed by the son of the man whose sword 
he wears, and the feud starts afresh. From a reference in 
" Widsith," it seems clear that Ingekl later sought out Hrothgar 
at Heorot, and there received a crushing defeat at the hands of 
Hrothgar and his nephew Hrothulf. Possibly it was at this 
time that Heorot was burned; see p. 3 (" Warring surges," etc.) 
and note. 

67. His glove hung : The word " glove " has been ex- 
plained as a bag for Grendel's spoils. It has also been used as 
evidence that the original of Grendel was a bear (compare also 
the description of his claws ; see p. 27), the glove representing 
what was originally his paw or pad. 

CO. After Hygelac fell : In his foray against the Frisians. 
Heardred was killed by the Swedes ; see note on p. 65. 

60. Therein -went some man . . . angered thereby: 
The translation of this almost illegible passage is based upon 
the reconstruction of Bugge and others, as given in Holder's 

61. Soon it befell . . . treasure-cup. A passage stilJ 
more illegible than that above, a line and a half having disap 
peared beyond recovery. In the translation, the liberty is takei 
of bridging this gap, but without the introduction of words not 
in the original. 

64. Beowulf came thence. Hygelac's historic foray is 
here referred to ; see p. viii. 

65. Outlawed men sought him : Wyatt's explanation 
of this somewhat obscure story is the simplest and most plausi- 
ble. The sons of Ohthere, Eanmund and Eadgils, banished from 


Sweden for rebellion, take refuge with Heardred. Eanmund is 
killed in a quarrel by Weohstan (see p. 71 and note). Their 
uncle, King Onela, son of Ongentheow, in wrath at their har-f^ 
boring with his hereditary foes, invades Geatland, Heardred is ^ 
slain, and Beowulf succeeds to the throne. Beowulf later aids 
Eadgils in an invasion of Sweden, when the latter slays Onela 
on the ice of Lake Wener, as described in the Norse version of 
the story. 

67. The sons of Ongentheow: Onela and Ohfhere made 
forays into Geatland, and the Geats retaliated, carrying off j 
Ongentheow's queen (compare the later account, p. 79 ff.). On- 
gentheow in turn invaded Geatland, killed Hiethcyn and re- 
covered his wife. The Geatish army was encompassed, but 
Hygelac (Ha^thcyn's younger brother, the king served and 
loved by Beowulf) came to the rescue. Ongentheow was driven 
back to his fastness and there slain (see the fuller account on 
p. 79 ff.) by Eofor, after he had struck down Eofor's brother, 
Wolf. These events precede those described, p. 65 and note. 

68. I . . . slew Dseghrefn : During Hygelae's foray. 

71. Eanmund . . . whom . . . Weohstan slew : Shame 
at killing a friendless exile and guest prevented Weohstan from 
boasting of his exploit, though the slain man was the nephew 
of Onela, the hated foe of the Geats. 

79. Franks and Frisians : An allusion to Hygelae's foray. 

79. The good-will of the Merovingian : The Merovin- 
gian king of the Franks. This reference seems to prove that 
the poem was composed before the downfall of the Merovingian 
dynasty in 752. 

79. Nor do I look . . . for peace or good-faith from the 
Swede-folk : Another and fuller version of the story told on p. 
67 ; compare also the note. The messenger rightly fears the 
Swedes may seek vengeance, now that Beowulf is dead. 

80. The plain of peace : Not clear; sometimes regarded 
as a proper name. Perhaps the plain before, or the open space 
within, a " peace-city," or secure fastness of a people, associated 
with it in name and itself comparatively free from danger ol 
marauding attacks. 

85. His wife likewise . . . and captivity : The trans- 
lation is here based on Bugge's reconstruction of an illegible 



ill. Pope's Rape of the Lock, etc. 

1 18, Hawthorne's Marble Faun. 

I H). Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. 

I DO, Ouida's Dog of Flanders, etc. 

101, E wing 'a Jackanapes, etc. 

i i '. Martiueau's The Peasant and the Prince. 

i .:;. siiakespeare'sMidsuniinerNight'sDream. 

i it. Shakespeare's Tempest. 

I ■ . living's Life of Goldsmith. 

Ififl, Tennyson's Gareth and Lynette, etc. 

i .. The Song of Roland. 

i I Malory's Merlin and Sir Balin. 

i 'I. Beowulf. 

100, Spenser's Faerie Queene. Book I. 

|(|| Dickens's Tale of Two Cities. 

[0 '. Prose and Poetry of Cardinal Newman. 

jfl I, Shakespeare's Henry V. 

|| I. De Quincey's Joan of Arc, etc. 

II >. Bcott's Quentin Durward. 

|Q(t, Carlyle's Heroes and Hero-Worship. 
JOT. Longfellow's Autobiographical Poems. 
I Shelley's Poems. 

[flO. Lowell's My Garden Acquaintance, etc. 
I.ii. Lamb's Essays of Ella. 
, 172. Emerson's Essays, 

Kate Douglas Wiggin's Flag-Raising. 

Kate Douglas Wiggin's Finding a Home. 

Whittier's Autobiographical Poems. 

Burroughs's Afoot and Afloat. 
tit. Bacon's Essays. 
1 1 t. Selections from John Ruskm. 

(Continued from inside front cover) 

i, ;. 
II i. 

King Arthur Stories from Malory. 

Palmer's Odyssey. 

Goldsmith's The Good-Natured Man. 

Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer. 

Old English and Scottish Ballads. 

Shakespeare's King Lear. 
1 i. Moores's Life of Lincoln. 
I 10, Thoreau's Camping in the Maine Woods. 
| .. ISS, Huxley's Autobiography, and Essays. 
80, Byron's Childe Harold, Canto IV, etc. 
I 'M t. Wash ington's Farewell Address, and Web- 
ster's Bunker Hill Oration. 

The Second Shepherds' Play, etc. 

Mrs. Goskell's Cranford. 

Williams's /Eneid. 

Irving's Bracebridge Hall. Selections. 

Thoreau's Waklen. 

Sheridan's The Rivals. 

1'arton's Captains of Industry. Selected. 
108, 199. Macaulay's LordClive, and W. Hast- 
ings, i 
800, Howells's The Rise of Silas Lapham. 
"01. Harris's Little Mr.Thimblefiuger Stories, 
'.'tl'j. Jewett's The Night Before Thanksgiving. 
o:i, ghumway's Nibelungenlied. 

804. Sheffield's Old Testament Narrative. 

805. Powers's A Dickens Reader. 
:'tHi. Goethe's Faust. Part I. 
907. Cooper's The Spy. 

808. Aldrich's Story of a Bad Boy. 

809. Warner's Being a Boy. 

8L0. Kate Douglas Wiggin's Polly Oliver's 

i ii. 

i i. 

i '. 

i :. 



1(1 '. 


| IKS 

211. Milton's Areopagitica, etc. 

212. Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. 

213. Hemingway's Le Morte Arthur. 

214. Moores's Life of Columbus. 

215. Bret Harte's Tennessee's Partner, etc. 
210. Ralph Roister Doister. 

217. Gorboduc. (I/i preparation.) 
21S. Selected Lyrics from Wordsworth, Keats, 
and Shelley. 

219. Selected Lyrics from Dryden, Collins, 

Gray, Cowper and Burns. 

220. Southern Poems. 

221. Macaulay's Speeches on Copyright; Lin- 

coln's Cooper Union Address. 

222. Briggs's College Life. 

223. Selections from the Prose Writings of Mat- 

thew Arnold. 
224-227. See nexipage t Library Binding. 
22.S, Selected English Letters. 

229. Jewett's Playday Stories. 

230. Grenfell's Adrift on an Ice-Pan. 

231. Mine's Stickeen. 

232. Harte'S Waif of the Plains, etc. 

233. Tennyson's The Coming of Arthur, The 

Holy Grail and the Passing of Arthur, 

234. Selected Essays. 

(Other titles to be announced) 





A American Authors and their Birthdays. > R Hawthorne'sTwice-Told Tales. Selected. 
H Biographical Sketches of American Au- \H living's Essays from Sketch Book. Sa- 

IhOrS. I.r!r.l. 

6' Warriner's Teaching of English Classics '/' Literature for the Study of Language. 

in the Grades. 

/> Scudder's Literature in School. 

F Longfellow Leaflets. 

c Wluttiei Leaflets. 

11 Holmes Leaflets. 

1 Thomas's How to Teach English Clas- 

./ Holurook's Northland Heroes. 

/, The Riverside Song Book. 

At Lowell's Fable for Critics. 

A' Selections fiom American Authors. 

O Lowell Leaflets. 

y Holbrook's Hiawatha Primer. 

Q Selections from English Authors. 

V A Dramatization of the Song of Hia- 

I' Holbrook's Book of Nature Myths. 

II' Brown's In the Days of Giants. 

X Poems for the Study of Language. 

J* Warner's In the Wilderness. 

Z Nine Selected Poems. 

AA Coleridge's The Ancient Mariner and 
Lowell's The Vision of Sir Launfal. 

BB Poe's The Raven, Whittier's Snow- 
Bound, and Longfellow's The Court- 
ship of Miles Standish. 

CC Selections for Study and Memorizing. 


135-136. Chaucer's Prologue, The Knight's Tale, and The Nun's Priest's Tale. 
160. S, • ' 'Mine, Book I. 

166. Carlyle's Heroes and Hero-Worship. 
168. Shelley's Poems. Selected. 

177. Bacon's Essays. 

178. Selections from the Works of John Rue kin. 

181-182. Goldsmith's The Good -Naiured Man, and She Stoops to Conquer. 

183. Old English and Scottish Ballads. 

187-188. Huxley's Autobiography and Selected Essays, 

19:. Second Shepherd's Play, Everyman, etc. 

air. Milton's Areopagitica, etc. 

ai6. Ralph Roister Doistei. 

222. Briggs's College Life. 

223. Selections from the Prose Works of Matthew Arnold. 

224. Perry's The American Mind and American Idealism. 

225. Newman's University Subjects. ^^ 

226. Burroughs'* Studies in Nature and Literature. 

227. Bryce's Promoting Good Citizenship. 

235. Briggs' To College Girls. 

236. Selected Literary Essays from James Russell Lowell. 
K. Minimum College Requirements in English for Study. 

Complst? catalogue and price list of the Riverside Literature Series fret upon